Back to Church Sunday

I received a press release today from the Bishop of Bradford’s office.

This Sunday is back to church Sunday. Churches across the land are encouraging members to invite back people who have drifted away and, they say, are looking for an excuse to come back. The Bishop of Bradford has produced a video on You Tube explaining what it is all about.

The Bishop explained that we don’t all need the gift of the gab to be evangelists but simply to, “allow the hymns and the worship to do their work”. Here lies the difficulty I think – the hymns and the worship.

Being part of a church for me is very important. It enables me to explore and deepen the thing I call Christian faith and learn what love is really all about; what could be more important?

Take last Sunday, for example. We decided to take a break from or regular church and went to a neighbouring parish. The people at the morning service where great – we knew many of them. The hymns and the worship were led with care, dignity, thoughtfulness and skill. It was a mix of traditional hymns and modern worship songs, readings, prayers and a sermon. The congregation arranged along the lines of the pews. Coffee served after. I’m not saying this is a bad arrangement or badly done, it wasn’t, just that it may not be helpful for some people.

I’m sure this style of worship (repeated right across the country) only connects with a small (and dwindling) minority of people. For huge numbers it just doesn’t mean very much.

I can’t for the life of me understand why the church isn’t more actively seeking to find ways of embracing the breathtaking and diverse range of humanity that exits within our communities. Drawing on creative talents to revitalise the look, feel, smell, sound of our celebrations. Encouraging participation and involvement in telling the story. Looking for new spaces in which to worship. Using new technology to find and engage with strangers.

Be welcoming to the returnees, yes, but let’s try and understand why they may have left in the first place and hopefully take them by surprise.

As it happens I also received a press release today inviting me to a Mosque in Leeds – a welcoming meal for all members of the local communities. No mention of hymns though!

Published by Mark

Mark Waddington is a former BBC broadcaster and producer. He now works for the Diocese of Leeds as Urban Mission Officer. If you would like to get in touch email