Back to the Future?
Today the Church of England and other mainline churches were celebrating "Back to Church Sunday" (Patrick Comerford has been preaching/blogging about it here). According to Des Bain, the Home Missions Secretary of the Methodist Church in Ireland, the churches here in Ireland have been considering an extension of the campaign to this island. He spoke about it at our leaders' event yesterday in church, as part of our Anniversary Celebrations. In effect today was a bit of a "Back to Church Sunday" for us, as former ministers, members and friends joined with us to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of the opening of our current premises, and it was great to see them.
However, if we do adopt this campaign, I truly hope that we at least find a different name for it. I don't want to encourage anyone to come "Back" to anything... Indeed, I would want to encourage the church to stop looking back to some mythical golden age, and instead look forward with a sense of realism, hope and imagination.
The western world has turned its back on the church as we currently know it. Why would they want to come back to something that has a tendency to act a bit like a spiritual version of a railway preservation society? A trip on a steam train is OK for a bit of one-off nostalgia, but you wouldn't want to travel anywhere in a hurry on one.
Instead of encouraging people outside to come back to church (where they percieve they will be used as pew fodder and open wallets) we need to encourage those at church to go away... At least from Sunday to Sunday... Not so much "Back to Church" as "Go Be Church."