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Page last updated at 13:49 GMT, Monday, 28 September 2009 14:49 UK
Appealing for returns to church
BBC Leicester presenter John Florance
By John Florance
Presenter, BBC Leicester

Bishop Tim speaks to Leicestershire residents (Photo: Clive Rasin)
Bishop Tim spoke to Mountsorrel residents about what "church" means to them

Thousands of people were set to return to churches of all denominations following a personal invitation from a friend on Sunday.

'Back to Church Sunday' is the annual campaign to get people back into the habit of church going.

Last week the church extended an 'open invitation' to take a pew, even encouraging people via YouTube.

The Bishop of Reading, the Rt Revd Stephen Cottrell, spoke about the need for the Church to be truly welcoming.

Places of warmth and honesty. Sanctuaries of deep conversation, of tears and laughter
Rt Revd Stephen Cottrell, Bishop of Reading

The Bishop of Reading said: "Even today I meet people who think you have to be highly educated or suited and booted to be a person who goes to church. That's so frustrating.

"How did it come to this, that we have become known as just the Marks and Spencer option when in our heart of hearts we know that Jesus would just as likely be in the queue at Asda or Aldi?

"Jesus got us started with church simply, like this, sitting us down in groups on the grass and telling simple stories. Not simplistic. But certainly not complicated. All his first disciples were down-to-earth people who wanted to know what life was all about.

"I wish I could take everyone round our churches in my area. Places of warmth and honesty. Sanctuaries of deep conversation, of tears and laughter. Not a hobby but a way of life."

Come back!

In the Diocese of Leicestershire the Bishop of Leicester, the Rt Revd Tim Stevens, visited a supermarket in Mountsorrel to canvass shoppers on these themes and also visited a local café to speak to a group of people who have recently come back to church.

The day was captured on video and can be seen on YouTube

Bishop Tim speaks to Leicestershire residents (Photo: Clive Rasin)
"It was a real joy to spend time in Mountsorrel" - Bishop Tim

Bishop Tim said: "It was a real joy to spend time in Mountsorrel. Many people seemed to be receptive to Jesus, but more hesitant about the church.

"Over the years many have felt something pushed or pulled them away from church, or that it wasn't always connecting with their lives.

"'Back to Church Sunday' is a great opportunity to give us another go."

Some people also said that the church was a dying institution and that it was irrelevant in the modern world.

Views from Leicester

On my Sunday breakfast show on BBC Radio Leicester we heard from a variety of folk on Leicester's streets.

Some spoke of church going with real warmth and affection. But others clearly felt no need for the church

Reaching out to the un-churched, especially those who know nothing about faith and apparently feel no need for it, is far from easy.

'Back to Church Sunday' is backed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, who said: "The Church's responsibility to welcome all comers isn't, of course, restricted to one Sunday in the year!

A cross on an open bible
It can be difficult to reach out to people who do not currently attend church

"But this Sunday in particular prompts us to do a better job of saying to people that we are truly glad to see newcomers and they always have a right to be part of the family.

"I pray that this year's 'Back to Church Sunday' will assure the whole population of this country that they are loved and valued by God - and by those who worship God."

One of the strengths of the Church of England is that everyone without exception lives within a parish and hence has access to a priest.

In times of trouble, especially spiritual trouble, these men and women can help.

If that message can be got across perhaps more people will find their way back to church on a Sunday, or on other days of the week.




SEE ALSO
Presenter profile: John Florance
14 Sep 09 |  TV & Radio
Leicestershire singing Hallelujah
22 Sep 09 |  Religion & Ethics
St. Thérèse comes to the Diocese
15 Sep 09 |  Religion & Ethics


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