ALL serving clergy in the Church of England will soon receive a letter from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York asking them to take part in a week of prayer for evangelism at Pentecost.
The event — “Thy Kingdom Come” — will run from 8 to 15 May. Cathedrals and churches across England are expected to hold events to encourage churchgoers to “share their faith with their friends”.
The centrepiece will be “beacon” services in Durham, Canterbury, York, Coventry, St Paul’s, and Winchester cathedrals, led by bishops, well-known worship leaders, and musicians, including the Revd Tim Hughes, and Martin Smith.
“Thy Kingdom Come” is the fruit of two years’ discussion by the Archbishops’ Task Group on Evangelism. Details of the week were given in a report from the group which will be discussed at the General Synod this month.
The Task Group, set up in 2014 and chaired by the Archbishop of Canterbury, includes specialists in evangelism from across the Church. In the introduction to their report, the vice-chair of the group, the Bishop of Liverpool, the Rt Revd Paul Bayes, writes that their hope is to bring the “beauty” of evangelism to every part of the Church.“Sharing the news of the beautiful shepherd is itself beautiful, a delicate, gentle, and rich privilege.”
But, the Task Group’s report emphasises that it cannot evangelise England on behalf of the wider Church. Instead, it offers a series of short articles that reflect some of the discussions and work that they have undertaken in the past two years.
The group is producing a set of questions and guidance for parishes that wish to create an evangelism strategy, besides commissioning new research into attitudes towards Christianity among the public.
They also seek to publish, later this year, a series of videos that can be used as a resource for training church leaders in how to share their faith.
Speaking at a press briefing last Friday, Bishop Bayes said that it was clear that the clergy needed more help in evangelism. “All Christians need the confidence to share their faith, and that applies to all people, including vicars.”
Doctoral research by a member of the Task Group, Beth Keith, suggests that most priests see their vocation in terms of prayer, pastoral ministry, and officiating at services, not “mission and evangelism”. “We must focus our attention on placing the call to witness at the heart of ordained ministry,” the report concludes.
Since 2005, anyone seeking to begin training for ordination must demonstrate willingness to evangelise, but the report recommends strengthening this requirement.
Some members of the group have focused their efforts on evangelism to young people, or the poor. As a result, the report says, Church House will soon appoint a new member of staff dedicated to evangelism with children; and a conference on mission to urban housing estates will be held next month at Bishopthorpe Palace.
Bishop Bayes said that, while evangelism had always been a concern of the Church, the current generation had no excuse for neglecting it, given the steady decline of the C of E in recent decades.
Members of the Synod will discuss the report in small groups for most of the morning on Tuesday 16 February, before a formal debate.
The campaign Prayer on the Move, co-ordinated by SPCK, and costing £100,000, is supported by several bodies, including the Archbishop of Canterbury’s charitable fund and the diocese of London. The Bishop of London, the Rt Revd Richard Chartres, hopes that “reading a simple prayer in the anonymity of the Tube or the bus will give people an opportunity to listen to the Spirit’s inner voice”.
Participants can download an app, send a text to receive a booklet, and follow a Twitter feed (#Prayersonthemove). A number of events are also planned, including a prayer walk from Westminster Abbey to Trafalgar Square, led by Bishop Chartres on 19 February.
The ads will appear on buses in Newcastle from 8 February, for one month; and on the London Underground from 15-28 February. A recent YouGov poll, commissioned by SPCK, found that 42 per cent of the 2000 respondents said that they prayed. Bus adverts in Birmingham will follow later in the year.