Back to Church Sunday stories - September 2011 - Portsmouth/Chester
Whatever you’re doing to spread the word about Back to Church Sunday (BTCS) on 25 September, be inspired by these stories from churches across the UK
More than 150,000 people have returned to church since the first Back to Church Sunday in 2004 – enough to fill Wembley Stadium and the Emirates Stadium put together!
Now, every September, thousands of churches from all denominations – and tens of thousands of Christians – make an extra special effort to invite a friend, neighbour or relative to a special service with the visitor very much in mind.
“It's the shortest step in evangelism,” says the Bishop of Hertford, the Rt Rev Paul Bayes, “ invite someone you know to something you love: 'Would you like to come to church with me?' And year after year, people are responding positively."
Crisps in the cathedral
It was joining the toddler group at Portsmouth Cathedral that proved the springboard to bring Bob Diggles back to church.
The 34-year-old, who looks after Credence, five, and Coco, two, during the day, turned up to the regular Wednesday afternoon group for the first time – and was immediately invited back to church that Sunday.
Both Bob and his wife Jo Preston used to go to church, and had felt the urge to return. So the whole family came to Sunday worship at the cathedral on Back to Church Sunday.
Bob and Jo’s visit coincided with Bishop Christopher’s first Sunday service there.
“Another mum had suggested I come to the cathedral toddler group, and my first time there was the week before Back to Church Sunday,” said Bob.
“Canon Michael Tristram invited us all to come. I hadn’t been to a Sunday service in a cathedral before, so I thought it would be fun.
“We had some trepidation about a Sunday service as you don’t know where the kids go, and whether they’ll start making a noise. But as soon as we came in, we saw a carpeted area with some toys, and we saw another mum from toddler group, and we realised children would be welcome.
“Later Jo took them out to the Sunday school. I was left in the service, and I really enjoyed the full choir singing, the calm, the architecture, the candles – and the chance to have some time out to think about things, which you don’t get in the rest of the week.
“Afterwards there was wine and nibbles for us and the kids had crisps and chocolate biscuits. It was a step up from other after-service snacks we remember!”
Bob had previously been to church when he was growing up in Yorkshire and still attends when he’s back there. He and Jo were both part of church youth groups and Jo went on to spend a year working with the Christian organisation Youth With A Mission.
“We’ll certainly carry on coming to the toddler group and I might try an Evensong without the children to see what that’s like,” said Bob.
With thanks to Pompey Chimes
"Since 2007, we've combined BTCS with Harvest," says Rev John Hayes, Vicar of All Saints and Holy Trinity, Runcorn in Cheshire. "People have been invited through our schools as well as through our after-school clubs and two community projects. Typically, both congregations almost double on Back to Church Sunday.
"Our experience is that BTCS on its own simply swells the congregation on that day. What we've learned about inviting and welcoming for BTCS, we now apply to all 'invitation' services, like Mothering Sunday, Easter, Remembrance Sunday and Christmas. As a result, people are getting used to coming more often and expecting to enjoy church."
With thanks to Chester Diocesan News