Half a Million People To Be Invited ‘Back to Church’
Churchgoers across the Church of England are set personally to invite up to half a million people to services on Back to Church Sunday, 27 September 2009, making the event one of the largest co-ordinated evangelism events shared across the Church in recent history.
Every one of the Church’s 44 dioceses are taking part in the initiative this year, by encouraging churchgoers to invite someone they know who used to attend church to come back on a particular Sunday. Churches will focus on extending an even warmer welcome than usual on the day, supported by ‘Back to Church Sunday’ resources such as special red ‘welcome’ T-shirts and subsidised ‘party packs’ of fairly-traded catering products, produced in partnership with Traidcraft.
Up to 16,000 Church of England churches could be taking part, joining congregations from Churches Together in Scotland, the Church in Wales, Baptist, Methodist and United Reformed churches nationwide, Elim Pentecostal churches and Anglican churches in Australia, Argentina, New Zealand and Canada.
‘Back to Church Sunday’ began in Manchester in 2004, spread to Wakefield Diocese in 2005, nine dioceses in 2006, 20 in 2007, and 38 in 2008, when an estimated 37,000 people came back. While not each of the Church of England’s 16,000 parish churches will necessarily be taking part this year, each church has the opportunity to do so, with bishops encouraging parishes to get involved.
“The impact of Back to Church Sunday is not just measured in statistics; it is measured by the wonderful impact it has had on numerous individual lives,” comments the Rt Revd Jonathan Gledhill, Bishop of Lichfield.
Coming Back to Church: some stories from 2008
Celia Lawton-Livingstone was invited to St Luke’s, Colchester, on Back to Church Sunday 2008. Her friend Carole asked her along to the service. Now Celia is attending regularly, has joined the Worship Team, and hopes to be confirmed later this year. She comments: “I was surprised when I got to the church that morning. It was different to what I’d imagined, and the people were very friendly. I didn’t feel like they were trying to shove religion down my throat, they let me make up my own mind. It was a very relaxed and welcoming atmosphere, just like one big family. I would recommend it to others: you never know where it could lead you. My whole life has changed completely in the last year.”
Debbie Hall, went back to St George’s, Glascote, Tamworth on Back to Church Sunday 2007. Juggling life with young children had got in the way of regular church attendance, but she remembers her return fondly: “I’d never turned my back on God, but other commitments were on the forefront on my mind. It was just a normal service, but everyone was so nice and they made me feel really special. I was really pleased to be back.” Debbie is now a regular member of the congregation and serves as ‘welcomer’ for newcomers – and returners!
The Church of England