Yahoo – the fat lady has sung..............
But it's far from over. While some of us may have had our disappointments, let’s be encouraged by the amazing things that happened around our Diocese and others in New Zealand as shared below. Hopefully heaps to follow up, and build on for this Sunday, and the next and the next.....
Below is a selection of feedback received so far...
With all my love and blessings 'til we are in touch again
Michael Watson, St George’s, Seatoun:
Back to Church Sunday went very well at St George’s, Seatoun. We had a number of people who came back, and almost all of them found the service helpful, even inspiring. Most of the visitors stayed to chat over morning tea, and some were clearly making or re-making connections with others in the congregation. There was a prayerful atmosphere in worship, and a joyful one afterwards. The whole thing was a great answer to prayer. Now we've got to work on follow-up.
Ben Johnson-Frow, St Mary’s, Karori:
I can say that it went very well up here too. Average attendance is usually about 100, but we were up to 130-something. The worship leader was engaging, handsome, and me :), but seriously ... it did make me think and explain a little more of what was happening as we went along, and it didn't feel like that was a hindrance to the flow of worship at all, but actually helped with engagement and participation across the board. I was very impressed by the number of people who went out and invited someone along. Only Back to Church Sunday-er feedback I had though was from a lapsed Presbyterian who thought the service was "wonderful" ... but couldn't see herself coming along regularly to an Anglican church ... but should really go back and check out her old Presbyterian church again ... so YAY! :) It'll be interesting to see who comes back over the next few weeks too.
Kelvin Wright, St John the Evangelist, Roslyn (Dunedin Diocese):
Back to Church Sunday is something dreamed up somewhere in Britain. This year we thought we would give it a try, and I'm very glad we did. Our main congregation, at 10 am on Sunday morning, has typically had about 130 people present. Over the past year, my foot has been off the gas pedal and attendances have dropped back to about 100. I knew it was time to take stock and think about our direction as a parish, and we had drawn up and distributed a parish survey as part of a wide ranging review. Back to Church Sunday happened along at just at the beginning of the whole process.
The introductory videos were useful. They were mostly short clips from the TV series Desperate Housewives which raised some questions about churches and what they are here for. The clips got our folks talking, and wondering about such things as how we welcome people, and how we make them feel at home if they should wander in off the street. We made the invitations available and around 60 of them were taken away and (I assume) offered to friends and family.
Today we had 136 people at the 10 am service. We had a lot of people present who had once been regular attendees, but who had not been around for a while. We had a few spouses and children of parishioners making a first time visit. We had a few who were completely new to St John's. It was great to see our little church more or less full again. I managed to speak to many who had come because of the invitations, and in most cases, they told me they were thinking of coming anyway. There were pressing life issues for some of them which were causing a rethink of priorities and an invitation to church was just the catalyst they had needed to make the move. Whether this will translate into an increase in regular attendance will depend on how well we follow up over the next week or two, but I am optimistic.
In terms of its stated aim, Back to Church Sunday has been a rip roaring success for St John's, Roslyn. In terms of the bigger issues, it has been a success as well. Firstly it has encouraged us to look at ourselves and make changes where necessary. Most importantly it has encouraged people to think about why they themselves come to church and to talk about those reasons with people they live and work and share bits of their lives with. Of course we will be signing up for next year's Back to Church Sunday, but I hope we can translate the learnings into the other 51 Sundays until then.
Sue McCafferty, Waitaki-North Oamaru Parish:
Yes, we too had a good turn out in Waitaki-North Oamaru Parish, doubled our numbers at St Mary's, Oamaru, and tripled our numbers at Kurow, but the numbers are very small there! With St Mary's it wasn't so much that everyone came who had been invited but those who did come were families, and we got a good attendance of "regular" worshippers too, who had been targeted over the last few weeks when they came to church. There were also people who were invited who hadn't come for a long time. They commented on how it had "changed". There were people there who had never been to church before, and as we are supposed to follow the same pattern that we always follow on a Sunday, a lot of work needs to be done to explain the liturgy and our language.
And that's the beauty and simplicity of Back to Church Sunday. Those who invite these people will be able to explain the terms that we use and we all become evangelists in our own way. There will be various methods that we will incorporate to show what our faith is about. I find it fascinating the way it works, but it works, and the question is whether they will continue to come. We are going to have to work very hard on that, and there will be a lot of follow up in different ways.
As far as St Alban's, Kurow is concerned, whose service was later on that day, I thought that the "Country approach" might work, i.e., special service, and all the people on the list were invited, but it was others that came. Again – fascinating. Morning tea was put on before the service in the old beautiful Victorian mansion, which is the vicarage there, and that could have been a drawcard too. And being a country church morning tea was a sumptuous do, which it always is in country churches.
St Mary's also puts on a wonderful spread after church at their place, and something else we did was "party packs". As well as balloons (it was mentioned originally in Back to Church Sunday material) we had party packs. We didn't have time to do the welcome pack, so some information was put in the pack (brightly coloured bag from the Warehouse) with a chocolate (something else that was mentioned in the original Back to Church Sunday material).
Jan Clark, Holy Cross, St Kilda:
We participated in Back to Church Sunday yesterday (Sept 13th). Approximately 30% of our congregation at 10am were people who had accepted an invitation to come. Many other members of our regular congregation had invited people who had either declined the invitation or couldn't attend for various reasons on this particular day. Some of the reasons will give us as a parish something to think about as we plan for the future – for example one woman said this was the only morning of the week she had free time with her husband. One of our ongoing questions: can we offer an alternative opportunity for worship?
I am thrilled not just because of the people who actually accepted an invite back to church but because I would estimate 75% of our people invited someone back. This is part of our success story. What's more the preparation we had done prior to 13th September meant we thought about and practised hospitality more deeply. We still have a number of things we are working on as we examine our life as a parish and whether the message we express is consistent with the gospel. This has a positive feel and I am grateful that B2CS got us motivated.
Back to Church Sunday is an initiative that acknowledges the approximately 20% of the population who have had some connection with the church and are open to an invitation to return (open dechurched?) and it is a good beginning. A lot of what we do in sharing the good news is about relationship – yesterday I saw people intentionally building relationship as they worshipped and shared fellowship together. For Holy Cross if 75% of our people have an increased awareness of their role in reaching out to others, we have a good foundation to build on as we share in God's mission.
Bill Schroeder, Green Island Parish:
B2CS certainly was a good thing. Other than me the first person in St Margaret's, Brighton this morning was a woman, local, who responded to a personal B2CS invitation! I applaud the B2CS initiative and we pushed it as hard as we could – with results.
Yet I continue to feel "back" is the wrong word. I understand and appreciate the B2CS concept; one definition or understanding of "back" is very unhelpful and misleading for those invited and I can't find an improvement. The "Desperate Housewives" series were a great hit. It has been a good Sunday.
Click here for information about Back to Church 2010
Click here for some resources to Follow Up those returning to church.
Click here for some ideas for Group Studies.
Click here for some Sermons relevant to Back to Church Sunday.
Click here for feedback about Back to Church 2009
Click here for UK Back 2 Church website