Special services for Back to Church Sunday

Churches are hoping that many people will take up their invitation to come back to church today.

Thousands of invitations have gone out to friends, neighbours and other locals for Back to Church Sunday.

In West Leigh, an entire school has been invited to Sunday worship as part of this year’s Back to Church Sunday.

Every pupil from St Alban’s C of E Primary School in West Leigh has been invited to join worshippers at the nearby St Alban’s Church.

To engage pupils in the service, headteacher Alice Wood has created a special children’s choir and a drama performance.

They’ll sing ‘Our God is a Great Big God’ and dramatise the story of Jesus healing a paralysed man.

The Rev Dominic Clarke, priest at St Alban’s Church, visited the school to invite all 218 pupils to come to the service. Among those who he invited was nine-year-old Abigail Tuttle.

“It’s nice to be invited to the church, and it’s exciting that we’re going to be performing,” she said.

St Alban’s Church is one of 58 churches in Portsmouth’s Church of England diocese taking part in the national initiative.

The idea behind it is that non-churchgoers are often keen to come to Sunday services if they are invited by a friend. More than 150,000 extra worshippers have come back to church since the initiative first started in 2004.

One of them was Ann Jenkins, who was invited to Hart Plain Church, on Hart Plain Avenue, near Waterlooville by her neighbour Rosina Clark.

“We’ve known each other for years, and when she asked me, I said yes,” said Ann.

“I hadn’t been to church for donkeys’ years, but had been thinking about it since losing my husband.

"The church is welcoming, relaxed and friendly – very different to the church I used to go to.

"I’m hoping to be confirmed, which was something I’d never got round to doing before.”

The Presbyterian Church of Wales encouraged members to invite someone they know to come with them to service today.

The Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Wales, Reverend R O Roberts, said there would be a special welcome waiting for anyone who joins them at church today.

"This is the third time that the Presbyterian Church of Wales is taking part in the campaign and more churches than ever are taking part," he said.

"Many of our churches have been hard at work, planning a special welcome, and I’m looking forward to hearing what sort of response they have.

"I pray that the Lord blesses Back to Church Sunday and that we see many searching for Him anew and seeking new life through Jesus Christ.”

Back to Church Sunday first started in the Anglican Diocese of Manchester in 2004 and has since spread all over the UK and to other countries around the world, including New Zealand and the US.

It is estimated that more than 51,000 people took up the invitation to attend service on Back to Church Sunday last year.