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Bishop of Lichfield’s radio ad to invite people back to church

The Rt Revd Jonathan Gledhill

The Rt Revd Jonathan Gledhill

The Bishop of Lichfield is set to take to the airwaves as part of a new advertising campaign aimed at getting people to go back to church.

The Rt Revd Jonathan Gledhill’s broadcast will be aired from today (September 21) on Beacon Radio and Signal Radio as part of a week-long campaign.

The campaign is timed to coincide with Back to Church Sunday on September 27. The event began as an initiative of the Church of England in Manchester in 2004 and has now grown to become a major international ecumenical mission.

The basic premise of Back to Church Sunday is simple: churchgoers pray for a specific individual over a period of time and issue a personal invitation to them to come back to church.

The radio advert features Brighton-based Christian singer Louise Fellingham singing the worship song In Christ Alone.  On top of this Jonathan Gledhill says:

“This Sunday is Back to Church Sunday when thousands of people are expected to come back to church.  Why not Join them?  Many people say they would come back to church if somebody invited them.  Well, I’m the Bishop of Lichfield and I’m inviting you.”

The Diocese of Lichfield first became involved in Back to Church Sunday in 2007, when 6,000 people came back to church as a result of Back to Church Sunday.  Six months later between 700 and 900 (12-15 per cent) had become regular members of their congregations and a further 3,000 were still in regular touch with their churches some six months later.

One of those who came back in 2007 was Debbie Hall, went back to St George╒s Church in Glascote, Tamworth. She said juggling life with young children had got in the way of regular church attendance, but she remembers her return fondly. She explained:

“I’d never turned my back on God, but other commitments were on the forefront on my mind.  It was just a normal service, but everyone was so nice and they made me feel really special. I was really pleased to be back.”

Debbie is now a regular member of the congregation and serves as welcomer for newcomers and returners.

The Rt Revd Jonathan Gledhill, says stories like Debbie’s prove the success of Back to Church Sunday. He said:

“The impact of Back to Church Sunday is not just measured in statistics; it is measured by the wonderful impact it has had on numerous individual lives.

“The advertising campaign is the icing on the cake, but the real success of Back to Church Sunday will be personal invitations.  The Christian faith is all about personal relationships. But if people don’t receive a personal invitation they should treat the adverts as their personal invitation from me to come back to church.”

In 2007 the diocese ran a radio and roadside poster advertising campaign to support the personal invitations and last year it took out advertising in the match day programmes of Burton Albion, Port Vale, Shrewsbury Town , Stoke City , Walsall, West Bromwich and Wolverhampton Wonderers football clubs.

The director of communications for the Diocese of Lichfield, Gavin Drake, added:

“Back to Church Sunday isn’t a gimmick – it is a personal invitation from a friend to a friend to come back to church.  The advertisements are designed to do two things – firstly, they reinforce the personal invitations so the invitee realises that they won’t be alone in returning to churc, and secondly they serve as a personal invitation themselves.

“We heard so many stories in 2007 of people returning to church as a direct result of these adverts – people who had fallen out of the habit of going to church after moving house; but then felt wanted after hearing the bishop’s personal invitation on the radio.”

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