It was a small touch, but it meant a lot to the pedestrians who were hurrying off to work and school in the morning rush-hour on Sept. 27. As they received an invitation to church from the Rev. Kevin Robertson and the Rev. Julie Meakin, they also got a small granola bar.
“It was a gesture of goodwill,” says Mr. Robertson, the incumbent of Christ Church, Deer Park. “We would do that again, for sure.”
Mr. Robertson and Ms. Meakin, the assistant curate, handed out about 175 invitations outside the church on the Thursday before Back to Church Sunday, held on Sept. 30. The church is located on Yonge Street, just north of St. Clair Avenue and one block away from a subway station.
Mr. Robertson said the invitations and granola bars were well received. “There was a lot of engagement. People asked about what we do here, the building, the music—everything.”
He said handing out the invitations was a learning experience. “One of the things that surprised me was how many people in their 30s and 40s were in the community. But it was also sobering. We have a number of young professionals in our church, but we saw a lot on Thursday who are not with us. It’s exciting that there’s this untapped potential, but we’ve got some work to do.”
It was the first year that the church got involved in Back to Church Sunday. The young people in the church’s Sunday school invited their friends and neighbours, as did some of the adults. As a result, there were new faces in the congregation on Sunday, says Mr. Robertson.
Back to Church Sunday is a worldwide initiative for Christians to invite their friends and family members back to church. This was the fourth year that it has been held in the diocese. In the past three years, about 6,000 people have come to church in the diocese as a result of an invitation, and about 900 have stayed. The results for this year will be published when they are available.
The diocese hopes Anglicans can develop the skill and habit of inviting people to church throughout the year. It is launching a pilot project with six parishes this fall called Seasons of Invitation. Parishioners will be encouraged to invite people for six occasions during the fall, Advent, Christmas and into the new year.