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Williams says Back to Church reveals ‘desire for connection’

18 January 2012

by Madeleine Davies

THE Archbishop of Canterbury this week praised the Back to Church Sunday initiative for uncovering a latent “desire for connection” in parishes.

Addressing a briefing at Lambeth Palace on Tuesday, Dr Williams called on the Church to “galvanise the connections that are already there”. There are “huge tracts” of society “which have no obvious points of contact with the Church, and we know that the strategies to reach them have to be very different”. But, he said, there is a wish “for connection to be made in the minds and hearts of a lot of people”.

Last year, 4200 churches, mainly from the Church of England, took part in Back to Church Sunday. Par­ticipants are encouraged to invite one friend to church on the last Sunday in September, using mater­ials produced by the initiative’s national team. The organisers es­tim­ate that 77,000 people accepted an in­­vita­­tion last year (News, 2 December).

The Bishop of Hertford, the Rt Revd Paul Bayes, the national mission and evangelism adviser to the Archbishops’ Council, this week announced the results of a survey of the House of Bishops, which sug­gested that 60 per cent of the diocesan bishops intend to get invol­ved in the 2012 campaign.

Speaking at the briefing, Bishop Bayes said: “This is not the only thing churches are doing, but it is a very simple, well-tested, inexpensive way to encourage local people to invite someone they know to something they love. It has won the confidence and support of the majority of bishops.”

The Bishops also gave their backing to proposals to expand Back to Church Sunday. Churches would be encouraged to invite people to attend a series of services between the end of September and St Val­entine’s Day, including a Harvest celebration and two Christmas services.

Back to Church Sunday seeks to increase the number of churches participating this year by 20 per cent. Participants will be provided with resources, including the outline for a sermon based on the parable of the lost sheep. The Bishop of Wakefield, the Rt Revd Stephen Platten, is expected to issue guidance from the Liturgical Commission about de­part­­ing from the lectionary.

Back to Church Sunday was started in Manchester diocese in 2004, and now takes place in churches of a number of denom­inations world­­­­­­­wide. Speaking at the briefing, a founding team-member of Back to Church Sunday, Michael Harvey, said that the Church had lost a cul­ture of in­vit­­ation.

“We have ghettoised ourselves. It is so difficult to go to a church if you are not going to a church already. We need to get invitation back into the DNA of the Church.”

Back to Church Sunday is on 30 September. Churches will be able to register to participate from 12 April.

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