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Winning video invites people to “come and see”

By Henrieta Paukov

When Bill Bradbury was preparing for a pilgrimage to Israel in 2006, he had the unexpected idea to make a video journal of the trip. He had no previous experience with video, but he bought a second-hand camera and practiced with it. “In Israel, I shot a whole lot of video, and when I came back, I made a DVD,” says Mr. Bradbury. “Looking back, it was a terrible DVD, but I really enjoyed making it. I continued to practice.”

His practice paid off this summer, when he won a video contest run by the Diocese’s Back to Church Sunday Committee. On Back to Church Sunday, taking place this year on Sept. 30, Anglicans invite their friends and acquaintances to join them at church. The Committee had put out a call for 60-second videos that would inspire people to come back to church. “We knew that there is a lot of creative talent in this Diocese,” says the Committee chair, the Rev. Stephanie Douglas-Bowman. “We thought it would be a good way to create awareness of Back to Church Sunday and produce a video that could be used by parishes across the diocese.”

The Committee was pleased with the number and quality of submissions, says Ms. Douglas-Bowman. Mr. Bradbury’s video stood out because “it really has the personal touch that we were looking for in the winning video. It has people talking about the difference that church makes in their lives, about being part of a Christian community.”

Mr. Bradbury, a member of St. Paul on-the-Hill in Pickering, had approached fellow parishioners he thought might be willing to talk about what church means to them. “I feel at peace when I am at church,” says one person in the video, while another says church “helps you make sense out of whatever is going on in your life.” He shot most of the footage at the parish picnic in July. Keeping in mind his audience, he took care to leave out “church speak,” which he says “can sound alien to people outside the church.” The sole Biblical reference is subtle, an invitation at the end to “come and see.”

He says one characteristic of a good video is brevity. “That first video I made in Israel was 80 minutes long, and I discovered that people do not want to watch an 80-minute-long video,” he says with a laugh. “So I quickly learned to abbreviate my productions.” He has also found that people respond most to human stories. “I think people associate with others if they are sincere and if the message is sincere, and that’s what I try to do.” He has shot videos on mission trips to Kenya, Guatemala and Haiti and maintains a video archive of sermons from St. Paul’s on his website,

The winning video is available on the Diocese’s YouTube channel. As the winner, Mr. Bradbury has received a brand new iPad from the Back to Church Sunday Committee, but he says his true motivation had nothing to do with wanting a new gadget. “I believe strongly in evangelism,” he says, “and I was absolutely thrilled to enter the contest because its purpose was to invite people to church.”

Like some of the people in his video, he came back to church after a long absence. Born into the Church of England, he lapsed while he was attending university in the north of England. “There was a church nearby, and I did try to attend two or three times, but I just wasn’t welcomed,” he says. “So I dropped away from the church, and I dropped away for a long time.”

After the events of Sept. 11, 2001, he and his wife decided to return to church and were drawn to St. Paul’s, which they had driven by many times. “The first time we went, we were greeted so warmly and made to feel right at home,” says Mr. Bradbury. “We’ve been attending regularly ever since, and I could count on the fingers of one hand the number of Sundays we’ve missed. It’s a wonderful community and we love all the people there.”

Back to Church Sunday is a chance for all parishes in the Diocese to practice invitation and welcome, says Ms. Douglas-Bowman. “The goal is for Anglicans to re-learn this missional skill of inviting people to church, inviting people to meet Jesus. We are really hoping that the parishes that participate will begin to see people inviting friends to church not just for Back to Church Sunday, but throughout the year.”

For Back to Church Sunday resources, visit the Back to Church Sunday page.