Why Church of England needs new PR team to win back worshippers – Paul Andrews

FATHER Neil McNicholas’s recent article in The Yorkshire Post on church attendance after Covid is a sad reflection on the modern world but the question should be asked: what should the church do to get people back into the pews?

What can be done to boost church attendance at Beverley Minbster and other places of worship?

There is talk of selling off buildings and a further “management of the decline”. This cannot be right. Buildings do matter. They are part of our national Christian heritage.

The church seems to think it is above using PR techniques. However badly off the church is, it does have enough funds to run a PR campaign and the clergy should not turn their noses up, as if the very idea is beneath any good Christian.

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When every materialist outlet is using PR to promote their ideas, why is it considered so ungodly to try and beat them at their own game?

What can be done to boost church attendance at Beverley Minbster and other places of worship?

Just look at the opportunities that are being missed.

There are the statistics that show that children and young people brought up in the Christian faith are less likely to take drugs, get divorced or end up in serious trouble with the law.

And why is there so much competition to get children into “church” schools?

So Christianity is good for you! So why can’t we shout this message out through the media loud and clear?

The Archbishop of York at the consecration of two new bishops at York Minster last week.

Not so long ago there was huge national concern about loneliness. And yet the church has so many half-empty buildings that could be used to introduce lonely people into a Christian community.

I had a letter published in The Yorkshire Post about this. Was it followed up by a mass of letters extolling the work the church can do as a community to include the lonely? Answer: not one letter.

The impression I got was that, rather like the Pharisee in the famous story, we – churchgoers and clergy – were happy to pass by on the other side of the road.

We would rather let others – secular charities and social services – get on with the job, while we allow the Christian religion to fall into irrelevance.

The church should take a hard look at itself and ask “What is it that Joe Public thinks is good and not good about the church?”

I think, if Joe Public is honest, he will laugh at the Virgin Birth and Resurrection but will always agree that Jesus was historically a great teacher.

But what do we do? We bang on about Christian doctrines – the Virgin Birth and the Resurrection – while we quietly try and forget what Jesus and the Christian religion actually teach, because the traditional teaching of the church offends the moral relativism of the modern world and, as Christians, we like to be seen as being all things to all people.

So we tear down the copies of the Ten Commandments which used to be displayed in prominent positions in our churches – as if we don’t quite believe them any more.

Most parents and grandparents worry about their children and grandchildren. They want them to grow up with normal happy lives, to marry and have families in their turn.

They want them to avoid falling in with bad company or getting involved with drugs and crime.

The teaching of absolute standards of morality through Bible stories gives huge help and support for achieving this. So many parents should welcome the teaching of absolute standards.

Even the strictest interpretation of the Bible does not condemn people (like most of us) who fail to live up to these high ideals.

The great Christian message is “forgiveness”. One of the most important messages from the Cross (in my view) are the words of Jesus: “Father, forgive them.”

In most other religions, the wronged saint or divinity would have died crying out for revenge.

The high standards Christians are expected to aim at are enforced not by the threat of harsh penalties in this world or the next, but by understanding and forgiveness.

So why does the church have to pander to the fleeting fashions of the modern world, instead of teaching traditional Christian standards of behaviour?

The church hierarchy should be reminded that, during lockdown, more people attended services on-line than previously they did physically in church.

Church leaders should be asked to take advice from professional PR consultants 
on how best to encourage these new people to come along and join the activities of their local church.

It is time to show confidence and faith and stop thinking about managing decline and selling buildings.

Paul Andrews is an Independent councillor for Malton and a former mayor of the town.

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