THE church-finding website A Church Near You has been relaunched this week to coincide with a new campaign to encourage people to attend services during Advent and Christmas.
Users of the new mobile-friendly website can search for churches or services in their area by typing in a postcode, or a specific feature such as carols, a choir, or disabled access. It comes after the unveiling of the new C of E website last month, which was also funded through the Renewal and Reform programme (News, 17 November).
A Church Near You receives more than 13 million page-views throughout the year; and December usually brings a spike in traffic. The site’s relaunch coincides with this year’s C of E Christmas campaign #GodWithUs: Your Christmas Journey, based on a book of Advent reflections with the same title, written by the Archdeacon of Wandsworth, the Ven. John Kiddle. Single or batches of copies can be bought from Church House Publishing; or people can sign up to receive his reflections throughout the season, via text or email.
In his introduction to the book, the Archbishop of Canterbury writes that it “seeks to help you explore what the Christmas story might mean in your life. The constant refrain of Christmas, in carols and readings, is that God is with us. In whatever situations you find yourself this Christmas, God is with you — you need only turn to him and ask to know his presence.”
About 18,000 copies of the book were given free to clergy, and a further 75,000 copies have been sold since the campaign launched last week, Church House Publishing has said on Tuesday. More copies have been reprinted to replenish stocks.
To accompany the book, three videos have also been created, to be released throughout Advent, giving a taste of the Christmas services on offer in churches across the UK, starting with Nine Lessons and Carols. All three were filmed in All Saints’, High Wycombe, in Buckinghamshire.
The Bishop of Oxford, Dr Steven Croft, said: “December is a very hectic month for many, but we know that millions of people across the country go to their local church for an Advent or Christmas service. We’ve been really encouraged with the response to the printed booklet, and the digital resources will help us reach even more people.”
The second and third films will focus on a Christingle and a Christmas service. The head of digital communications at Church House, Adrian Harris, who managed the rebuilding of the website, said that the hope was to encourage “millions more to come to know of the love of God and the birth of Jesus Christ”.