MORE THAN 37,000 people took up invitations to Back to Church Sunday on 28 September — more than 31,000 of these coming back to an Anglican church. About 3000 churches took part in the initiative, which was inspired by research that suggested that three million adults said they would go to church if personally invited (News, 26 September).
Figures from the diocese of Lichfield, which has been monitoring the scheme’s lasting impact, suggest that, six months after the 2007 event, between 12 and 15 per cent of “returners” had become regular members of a congregation.
The Archbishop of Canterbury’s adviser on church growth, Canon Paul Bayes, said that people inviting “someone they know to something they love” was how Christianity had spread throughout history. “What’s new is this: when churches everywhere invite at 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.”
Thirty-eight dioceses took part. The average number of people per church accepting the invitation was ten, and leaders in the field this year were Rochester, with an average of 15 returners per church; Chester and Manchester (14), Worcester (13), and Newcastle (11).
“These are quite high figures, and it just shows that those dioceses have really got behind the idea,” a Church House spokeswoman said on Wednesday.