UK Back to Church Sunday Results

Back to Church Sunday 2009 sees 71 per cent leap in returning churchgoers
by Charlie Boyd
Posted: Thursday, November 26, 2009, 11:38 (GMT)
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Back to Church Sunday 2009 sees 71 per cent leap in returning churchgoers
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The Church of England said around 53,000 people had returned to its churches on Back to Church Sunday 2009.

Some 82,000 people returned to church across the UK on Back to Church Sunday in September, according to figures from participating churches.

The Church of England said its participating churches had welcomed back 53,000 former churchgoers.

Head of Research and Statistics with the Church of England, the Rev Lynda Barley, said the statistics gathered so far indicated a 71 per cent increase on the number who returned on Back to Church Sunday in 2008.

“We know from local research that new attenders and the churches enjoy the Back to Church experience of church,” said Rev Barley.

“Not only has the number of participating churches increased between 2008 and 2009 so that approximately 20 per cent of Church of England churches are now taking part, but the average number of extra people per church has grown, with participating churches each having welcomed an average of 19 extra people compared to 14 last year.”

Research carried out by the Diocese of Lichfield after Back to Church Sunday 2007 found that six months later, between 12 and 15 per cent of returners had become regular members. The Church of England said that if even a conservative estimate of 12 per cent of this year’s returners continued into more regular churchgoing, Back to Church Sunday 2009 would have added another 9,900 people to pews across the UK.

This year, churches went the extra mile to hand out millions of personal invitations in the run up to Back to Church Sunday 2009. In parts of the UK a rap-style advertisement went out over the radio, while the Bishop of Doncaster, the Rt Rev Cyril Ashton, went out with a team of motor cyclists around South Yorkshire to invite people back to church. In Greater Manchester and Merseyside, a giant 20ft advertisement was driven through the streets of numerous towns.

The Rt Rev Jonathan Gledhill, Bishop of Lichfield, said: “Back to Church isn’t rocket science. It is, however, a way of putting a booster behind the welcome we offer people, and turning mission into less of a specialism.

“It turns evangelism into a simple invitation that any churchgoer can ask their friend or neighbour – ‘Will you come to church with me on Sunday?’

“What’s really encouraging is the way that Back to Church is becoming a core part of the Church’s DNA. Now a regular event for many churches, the buzz is catching, across churches of all traditions, and I expect to see even more churches getting involved in 2010.”

The figures have been released as church representatives gather in London to celebrate the success of Back to Church Sunday and start planning for next year’s event on 26 September 2010.

Back to Church Sunday was first held in the Anglican Diocese of Manchester in 2004. It has since spread to each of the Church of England’s 44 dioceses and congregations from Churches Together in Scotland, the Church in Wales, Baptist, Methodist, United Reformed, Salvation Army and Elim Pentecostal Churches nationwide. Internationally, the initiative is now held by Anglican churches in Australia, Argentina, New Zealand and Canada.

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