Saturday, 14 April 2007

Chelmsford Chief Executive commends 'Back to Church Sunday'

Incumbents and clergy in the Diocese of Chelmsford have received a letter from the Chief Executive, Stephen Webb, encouraging them to get involved in 'Back to Church Sunday', and telling them how and when to order resource packs (it is worth pointing out,though, that you don't have to order these packs to be involved in B2CS, so don't be put off by the 'deadline'):

Dear Incumbent,


I hope that you are having a wonderful Eastertide and that you are inspired to help create new life within your parish.

At the Diocesan synod in March a debate took place on whether we should join in with the national "Back to Church Sunday" campaign. The idea met with wholehearted approval and I am now writing to recommend that you participate in this exciting and easy effort to encourage people back to church.

"Back to Church Sunday" on 30th September 2007 is a day when parishes are encouraged to make an effort to be especially "user friendly" to visitors. It is just about the easiest piece of evangelism a parish can do. It was originally piloted in Manchester Diocese and gradually it is being broadened out across the Church of England. This year Chelmsford is backing it as a diocese, although one deanery did pilot it last year and found it to be a success.

The concept is simple. There are many people out there who have at some time been involved with church who no longer attend. Our aim is to welcome those people back to God and the church.

Recent research undertaken by Tearfund demonstrates that contrary to the secular image of the country, Christianity remains the dominant faith. One in seven adults go to church every month. Perhaps more surprising was the finding that some three million people who have stopped going to church or who have never been in their lives, would consider attending given the right invitation. "Back to Church Sunday" is about providing that invitation.

In order to work "Back to Church Sunday" needs the engagement of your congregation. As the Bishop of Manchester has been quoted, "The key seems to be the quality of the personal invitation by the members of the church and the quality of the welcome when they come back. Thousands have renewed their relationship with God and their local church."

The national church has engaged a PR agency to help promote the event and support the initiative. There will be national and local publicity, co-ordinated by our Director of Communications, about Back to Church Sunday and people will be encouraged to attend their local church on 30th September. Newcomers are attracted to the idea of coming back to church when there are likely to be other new people there.

Some people will come back just because they hear or read about it and we will endeavour to raise the profile by using our local media, but they real key is the personal invitation to come in.

This really is simple and achievable without any great outlay. It plays to some of our strengths as kindly, welcoming, rational people who want to share our experience of God.

Evidence thus far suggests that what attracts people back to church and prompts them to stay is not that they find a "perfect church" but the sense that there is a caring community, interested and committed to friendship.

There are thousands of people out there waiting for us to invite them in and on 30 September that is what we aim to do.

I refer to you the following websites that will give you further information:

This year Traidcraft is sponsoring the national resources that are available for your use. They have produced a Back to Church Pack which comes in two sizes. The Small pack contains 100 prayer card invitations, 10 posters and Welcome balloons and it costs £20. The Big Pack also contains 5 welcome team t-shirts and costs £45.

These packs can only be ordered through this office and orders need to be sent by me to arrive by 21st May. Realistically I need your order by 17th May 2007 so that I can collate all the orders and forward a combined order. When sending me your order can you please send a cheque to cover the cost made payable to "Back to Church Sunday'. If your parish cannot use all of these invitations then I would encourage you to combine with another parish in your deanery and place a joint order.

I hope that you and your parish will throw yourselves into this effort and I look forward to hearing from you with an order.

I also refer you to the enclosed poster for the "Walk back to the future" which is this year's Bradwell Pilgrimage. Please display it prominently in your church.

Yours Sincerely,

Steven G Webb
Chief Executive

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