A parish which has more than doubled youth attendance and increased regular congregations by a third is looking forward to welcoming more newcomers over coming months as it embraces the ‘Season of Invitation’ initiative.
The parish of Badshot Lea and Hale in Farnham is continuing its efforts to engage more people with the Christian faith by launching a scheme to invite friends, acquaintances, or even strangers to church on five occasions: Harvest, Remembrance, the Crib Service, the Carol Service, and the Christingle Service.
In 2011, the congregation at St John’s, St George’s and St Mark’s reached its lowest level after a year in vacancy. Across the three churches there were on average 96 people attending on a Sunday, of which only nine were children.
Priest in the parish, Revd Lesley Crawley explained the methods the churches took to encourage newcomers.
“Towards the end of 2011 a monthly Sunday School started both at St George’s and at St John’s, and in 2012 a Family Band started in the parish, with musicians of all ages playing at the services,” she said.
“The liturgy and songs at St Mark’s Church are as accessible for all as we can make them whilst remaining within the rules for a Communion Service. The bread we use is brioche and unconsecrated brioche is available with a blessing for those who are too young to receive Communion.
“We also started a group called ‘Questioning Faith’. Anyone who would like to know more about the Christian faith can come along and ask any questions they like. This has greatly increased the numbers of adult confirmations.”
On average, the parish now has 19 children attending a Sunday Morning service, and a total attendance of 138 people.
Seeking to build on the success of previous initiatives, the parish is now launching a season of invitation, which started with Harvest on 28 September.
Lesley said: “We feel that we are welcoming but not inviting congregations and we would like to change that.
“On 7 September we all prayed and asked God to help us think of someone who we could invite to church. We then wrote their initials on some paper sunflower petals and made flowers out of them. We will display these flowers across the season of invitation.
“We will do the inviting and leave the ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to God.”