September 30th is this year’s “Back to Church” Sunday. I hope that our congregations will participate. Most of our congregations are in small communities where, with some good communication and good ideas, most local residents will know something of the invitation by the time the day rolls around. There are all sorts and conditions of ideas that can be used to draw the attention of the community toward the church.

It can start with an invitation posted in all the local areas where people will see it. You can do such things as set of a display of your congregation in the local mall or popular store for a weekend. You can affix colourful balloons to your church with a large invitation so people will see it. Of course, even more simply is to encourage those of your regular communicants to invite members of their families and their friends to join them that day. Then, on the 30th, try things a little differently. Explain what it is we are doing with our worship, our books, the Sacraments, etc.. Invite them to stay for a social time after service. Encourage guests to ask questions at the coffee-hour. Make sure they go home with a friendly invitation to return and with a printed information piece in their hands that outlines your regular services and events. It really doesn’t take a great deal or much expense to make this day work for your congregation. If you want help, you can order materials online or through the Anglican Book Centre.

Being an inviting congregation , however, goes further (and perhaps this is the “rant” part of my thinking!). Throughout the past few weeks I have been conducting a little survey of our churches as I travel around the Diocese. It is a concern to me that many of our churches are looking tired and in ill repair. It appears that no one cares.

In my travels I have noticed our “signage” most of all. Many of our churchs, if they have a sign at all, have signs that are outdated, drab, faded and even unreadable. In one of our communities where our church has no sign and needs a paint-job, the little fundamentalist church located nearby, which is obviously poor because it had plastic covering the roof, had painted their building with fresh paint and had erected a large, colourful sign. In another community recently the grass had not been cut and the sign was two years out-of-date. The place looked closed! In another parish where there is an interchangeable letters sign, my predecessor is still advertised as Bishop. In that case I went to the warden and updated the sign myself! In more than one of our communities the signage indicates the name of the former Incumbent. In too many of our congregations, there is no sign at all.

Andrew Weeks, an Episcopal workshop leader and consultant, of “The Magnetic Church” program, says that our signage is the most vital invitational and informational tool we have to attract the passer-by and the seeker. There is a thinking that by erecting a sign is like raising a flag for it indicates not only that this congregation is alive but it is a declaration that “the ‘King’ is in residence here”.

I goes further. I have noticed churches in need of a little paint…fences in need of repair…grass in need of cutting…empty, weed-filled flowerbeds in need of work…and flags in need of replacing. I am not talking about major building repairs, I am only speaking of touching up the building.

Of course I realize that many of our parishes are financially strapped, but a gallon of paint to touch up the door or the window trim or eves is surely not much! If it is too much, I’ll buy you a gallon of paint myself! A number of years ago in the American Episcopal (Anglican) Church a decision was made that every church in America should paint their doors fire-engine red as an indication to the world that the Holy Spirit is present. When you travel to the US, you’ll notice it if you look. We should do that!!! They also suggested that when churches needed to be re-roofed they should use red shingles. Wow!!!

Let’s stop being lax with our message to the world. “Greater is He that is within us that he that is in the world”. Let’s show the world that it is an alive Lord Jesus Christ that we love and worship. Open our doors, stand outside Sunday morning and let the world see you and that you just might have something they are missing. Be a lively, visible witness that, “The King is in residence here”.

End of rant!!!

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