Insights from the UK and beyond
“You don’t have to be booted and suited” to go to church
“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” the Reverend Stephen Cottrell, Bishop of Reading, in southern England, said.
The comments come as Christian churches throughout the UK and other parts of the world launch a week-long “back to Church Sunday” campaign, an attempt to encourage people of all social classes to go to church this Sunday.
Up to 16,000 Church of England churches as well as Churches Together in Scotland, the Church in Wales, Baptist, Methodist, United Reformed, Salvation Army and Elim Pentecostal churches will be taking part as will Anglican churches in Australia, Argentina, New Zealand and Canada.
A poll in 2007 showed the social breakdown of congregations in Britain was evenly spread, but drawing on a shopping analogy, the Bishop likened the church’s image to that of middle-class Marks & Spencer rather than the more downmarket supermarkets Asda and Aldi.
“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? ” he asked.
“That’s so frustrating. 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.”
He said churches were places of “warmth and honesty…Not a hobby but a way of life”.
“Church: it’s definitely not about how you look, what you do, how you sound, how well you sing. Just come as you are,” he added.
A YouTube invitation has been posted by the Bishop of Sheffield, the Revd Steven Croft, and local radio adverts have been placed, while a Nottinghamshire bishop, the Revd Tony Porter, will be donning his biking leathers and setting off for a Territorial Army barracks to deliver the invitation.
Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the spiritual head of the Anglican Church, backed the campaign, saying the church had a responsibility to welcome all comers.