Churches in Labrador West are inviting new and old visitors to attend “Back to Church Sunday.”
The Ministerial Association, made up of churches in the area, started the invitational services last year as a reminder that the churches care about every individual in the community.
Captain Tim Jenkins of the Salvation Army Church said it’s about seed planting.
“If people come, you welcome them. There's a sense of bonding. We do everything we can to let people know that God has not forgotten them. It may start with something small like an invitation, but the hope is that it will grow into something bigger. We want people to be a part of the greater fellowship.”
Jenkins said although attendance in many churches is dropping, it’s not about simply increasing numbers.
“As a ministerial, we care about them and want to help them any way we can. One of those ways is the spiritual part of every person is part of their entity. Hopefully by coming out to the church they'll accept that message and internalize it and let it transform them.”
Reverend Wayne Parsons of St. Paul’s and St. Peter’s Anglican churches agreed with Jenkins, saying the purpose is to reach out to everyone.
“When people aren't regular attendees or don't attend for whatever reason they have, sometimes it's very difficult for people to re-enter a worship community. Church is the easiest thing to get out of and it's one of the hardest things to get back into, and an invitation can be the ice breaker people are looking for to re-enter that faith based community.”
Last year’s Back to Church Sunday showed increased numbers in all the churches, with positive feedback. Parsons said it was well received and people recognized that the church as a whole cares.
“Coming from the Ministerial is very important, we’re doing it as a unified front together because we all genuinely believe this. One of our main objectives is to propagate the gospel to the community, and whatever venue people choose to carry and live that out, we're doing it all together. I hope that speaks volumes to the community, that the ministerial cares and we thinks it's a very important initiative.”
Parsons said there’s no pressure tactics being used, just warm welcomes.
“Some people will come back and decide they need a little more time before returning again. That's fine, the reality is you're never going to have everyone. But whatever they're going through in life we're here to meet those needs.”
Parsons said there will be a time at some point when everyone needs the church, and they will always be invited.
“It's good for people to know for the most faithful parishioner to the person who hasn't stepped through the door in years, that we are here for them and the outreach is done for mercy and love and compassion. There are no exceptions to that.”
Jenkins said hopefully a fair amount of people will come out so there will be less notice of a single person who has been away for some time, eliminating an awkwardness that may be keeping them from returning.
“Hopefully, if anyone feels any shame or guilt or awkwardness to returning to church this will be a clean slate. We don't expect anything of you, there's no pressure or obligations. We want you to be here and we hope you'll receive the message well.”
“And if people choose not to come this Sunday for whatever reason, it’s an open invitation.”