27 November 2008
Back to Church Sunday is celebrating another rise in the numbers drawn back to church by the event this year as organisers gather in London for a special event at Lambeth Palace. Figures based on returns from dioceses suggest that more than 37,000 people took up the invitation to try church again on Sunday 28th September 2008 – with more than 31,000 of them ‘coming back’ to an Anglican church.
This achievement is being marked with a ‘thank you’ party for people across the country responsible for promoting Back to Church Sunday to local parish churches and encouraging them to extend the warmest welcome to visitors. The day will involve multimedia presentations, buzzgroups, and giveaway treats from the sponsors Traidcraft.
Thirty-eight Church of England dioceses from Cornwall to Newcastle took part this year, in addition to Churches Together in Scotland, the Church in Wales, Baptist, Methodist, United Reformed and Elim Pentecostal churches, and Anglican churches in New Zealand and Canada. In all, around 3,000 churches took part – inspired by research that recently revealed three million people (six per cent of the adult population) would come back to church if they received a personal invitation*. The figures released today are extrapolations based on returns from approximately 20 per cent of participating churches.
Research by the Diocese of Lichfield after last year’s Back to Church Sunday showed that, six months after the event, between 12 and 15 per cent of ‘returners’ had become regular members.
Canon Paul Bayes, the Archbishop of Canterbury's adviser on church growth, welcomed the news and said: “What happened on Back to Church Sunday? More than 37,000 people invited someone they know to something they love. That's how Christianity has spread over the centuries, and it still works. What's new is this: when churches everywhere unite to invite on one special moment in the year, something really good is added. It feels like one big church with one big welcome. And that strengthens the resolve of the inviter to invite and the returner to return.”
Case study: Debra Karim, Towcester, Northamptonshire
Debra Karim responded to an invitation to Back to Church Sunday at Whittlebury, near Towcester in the Diocese of Peterborough in 2007. She’d got out of the habit of going to church because of a busy job and a house move. But she said she always missed church. “For a few years I had felt lost, as if part of me was missing, but going back to church was an overwhelming experience. Tears welled in my eyes as I felt I had come home.” Now Debra is still enjoying church, saying: “Where else in life can you guarantee a friendly face, a smile and an overwhelming feeling of peace and contentment?” To someone thinking about trying church again, Debra says: “I would say take that step and walk through the doors, feel the welcome and when you say your first prayer know that it is heard.”