Inspiration to return to church

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Community

Faith Matters with Robin Gurney of Churches Together

ON Sunday (September 25) many local churches,

and indeed churches throughout the country, took part in Back To Church Sunday, a day at the beginning of the church year when a special invitation is extended to all those people who have dropped off from regular church attendance.

Back To Church Sunday is claimed to be the largest locally based church initiative in the world geared to get people back to church.

Recent years have seen many changes in the content of church services, much new music has been introduced, services are more interactive, the use of projection screens is now commonplace.

So, the aim is simple – show those who have ceased to attend that there is still a welcome in their local church and let them experience how today’s churches worship.

That may be why one local church called their special services on Sunday “Come and See Sunday”.

Figures for the success or otherwise of what happened at the weekend are not yet available but last year it is estimated that between 5,000 and 6,000 churches from participating denominations welcomed back 51,000 people. The Anglican church claimed an average of some 18 persons returned in each of their churches that took part.

Back To Church Sunday began in 2004 and since that time it is claimed that more than 150,000 people have returned to church. Another impressive estimated figure is that some one million persons are invited to attend church on the given Sunday.

In spite of these impressive figures the emphasis is not on how many churches take part or how many persons attend.

Success is based on the way that one person invites another. That might include a new neighbour who has lost contact because of having moved house or district and found it difficult to link up with new people and a new church. This happens often when people move into new estates on the outskirts of towns and where there is no visible presence of the local church. Something that the churches in our town a very conscious of as the new estates expand.

The Back To Church Sunday initiative is a clear example of the churches working together. It demonstrates that churches can report success best when they all act together as one big church offering one message on one given day.

The initiative began in Anglican churches in Britain but soon spread to other denominations, and is now a joint initiative of the Church of England, the Methodist Church, the United Reformed Church, the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Salvation Army, the Church in Wales, Churches Together in Scotland and Elim Pentecostal Churches.

A further phenomenon of this 21st century evangelism initiative is how quickly it has spread around the world. Reports after last year’s Sunday showed that churches in Australia, Argentina, New Zealand, Canada and continental Europe took part.

Of course, Back To Church Sunday does not exclude anyone from attending at any other time so if you missed out last Sunday why not try it this coming weekend – you will not be alone and you will receive a warm welcome.

>> Information for this column can be submitted to robingurney37@aol.com