Skip to main content

Back To Church Sunday

Back to Church Sunday is something dreamed up somewhere in Britain. The idea is simple really: get the parishioners to each ask someone to church on a designated day. Help them out a bit by providing a nice looking invitation card, and encourage them by showing some preparatory materials in church in the weeks ahead. It seems to have worked well in the UK, and, over the last couple of years, here in new Zealand. 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 attenders, 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 regualr attendance will depend on how well we follow up over the next week or two, but I am optimisitc.

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.


Peter Carrell said…
Excellent news - I have stolen a paragraph for ADU!
Brian R said…
Great to read. My one visit to your church, last November, it was packed but there was an adult baptism.
rochelle said…
Hi Kelvin,

Long time no see! I have enjoyed dropping in to read your blog from time to time recently... and particularly glad to hear the good news re your health.

I read this entry immediately after reading one on Steve Taylor's blog- - and thought you might find it interesting...

I was an attendee at the recent Auckland meeting of the International Anglican Liturgical Conference and was reading your stoy at Anglican Taonga. In The US back to church Sundays are mostly local parish initiatives i would like to know more of the video clips where to get them and so on. Thank you for posting about your experience
Kelvin Wright said…
To be frank I have no idea where the videos came from. I have a CD which I think came from the Diocese of Dunedin, but I'm not sure about that. If I had an address I'd be happy to pop a copy of the CD I have in the mail.
NIE said…

From the above site there are examples of the Youtube videos we used as promos. And many others.

I'd recommend too that you consult the Australian Back to Church website which has some very good video snippets of what happened in the Southern Hemisphere on BTC Sunday 2008.

Even if the person invited refuses (and mine didn't want to come)the longish conversation I had on the doorstep gave me much food for thought. We have a lot of work to do to connect with our community again.

Popular posts from this blog

The Matter With Things. 2

  Last night I finished reading Iain McGilchrist's The Matter With Things, Our Brains, our Delusions and the Unmaking of the World , the biggest book I have ever read, in all senses of the word "biggest". Back in 2017 I wrote about books which had been important to me , and, however I would recompile that list now, The Matter With Things would go straight to the top. Really. It's that good. I've read every word: no skipping or coming to and realising that my eyes have been glazed over for the past ten minutes. It's taken me a couple of months to engage  with its 1300 or so pages of text, and, as well, there are another couple of hundred pages of  appendices and bibliography (well, OK, I haven't read the bibliography). At the end of the book proper there is an epilogue which is a "so what" chapter in which McGilchrist speculates about the implications of his hemispheric theory for the world in the immediate future. This epilogue is preceded by a

En Hakkore

In the hills up behind Ranfurly there used to be a town, Hamilton, which at one stage was home to 5,000 people. All that remains of it now is a graveyard, fenced off and baking in the lonely brown hills. Near it, in the 1930s a large Sanitorium was built for the treatment of tuberculosis and other respiratory ailments. It was a substantial complex of buildings with wards, a nurses hostel, impressive houses for the manager and superintendent and all the utility buildings needed for such a large operation. The treatment offered consisted of isolation, views and weather. Patients were exposed to the air, the tons of it which whistled past, often at great speed, the warmth of the sun and the cold. They were housed in small cubicles opening onto huge glassed verandas where they cooked in the summer and froze in the winter and often, what with the wholesome food and the exercise, got better. When advances in antibiotics rendered the Sanitorium obsolete it was turned into a Borstal and the

Camino, by David Whyte

This poem captures it perfectly Camino. The way forward, the way between things, the way already walked before you, the path disappearing and re-appearing even as the ground gave way beneath you, the grief apparent only in the moment of forgetting, then the river, the mountain, the lifting song of the Sky Lark inviting you over the rain filled pass when your legs had given up, and after, it would be dusk and the half-lit villages in evening light; other people's homes glimpsed through lighted windows and inside, other people's lives; your own home you had left crowding your memory as you looked to see a child playing or a mother moving from one side of a room to another, your eyes wet with the keen cold wind of Navarre. But your loss brought you here to walk under one name and one name only, and to find the guise under which all loss can live; remember you were given that name every day along the way, remember you were greeted as such, and you neede

Turn Sideways Into The Light

David Whyte speaks in his audio series What To Remember When Waking of the myth of the Tuatha De Danann. They were a mythical race from Ireland's past who were tall, magical, mystical people devoted to beauty and artistry. When another more brutal people, the Milesians invaded Ireland the Tuatha De Danann fought them off in two battles, but were faced with a third, decisive battle against overwhelming odds. So, lined up in battle formation and facing almost certain defeat, the Tuatha De Danann turned sideways into the light and disappeared. Whyte's retelling is, to put it mildly, a gloss, but I am quite taken with the phrase and with the phenomenon it describes. Turning sideways into the light is the realisation that there are some encounters that are damaging to all involved in them: no one wins a war. Faced with such an exchange, to turn sideways into the light is to seek another, more whole form of relationship. It is to reject the ground rules of the conversation as they


I arrive at the door, wondering if I have to pay admittance. I've never been an event photographer before and I have no idea what I'm supposed to do. The young woman at the desk looks up and smiles.  "Oh, we've been expecting you. Come in " she says. She stands and I follow her into the foyer where the show is set up. I put my large camera bag on a table and glance around. There are children everywhere, and someone in a rainbow costume is singing and playing her violin, and radiating seemingly inexhaustible energy from the small stage at the front.  "Rainbow Rosalind" says my host. "She's fabulous, isn't she?" "Yeah. Great."  Who could argue? Who would want to? She's fabulous. "Is there anything I can get you?" she asks. "Coffee? Tea? The friands are actually very good. " "Ahh, no... I'm all good thanks. I'll just get on with it. OK if I put my stuff here?" She smiles and goes back to