The Church of England launched a pilot scheme in Manchester yesterday, to bring people back to church. More than 160 churches sent out 70,000 invitations to former members - mainly in the over-50 age group. Those who attended the Back to Church Harvest Festival Services were given 'goodie bags' containing posters, credit card style invitations, a 'missing you' emblem and a Fairtrade chocolate bar. At a service in St Ann's Church, The Bishop of Manchester, the Rt Revd Nigel McCulloch unveiled the new Back to Church website at: www.backtochurch.co.uk The site includes an on-line questionnaire asking people why they have stopped going to church. Bishop McCullough said: "People can lose touch with church for simple reasons - a house move for example - some of the reasons are more complex. It's helpful for us as a Church to hear why people left and what might encourage them back to their local church." In a statement the Bishop said the event was largely aimed at the over-50 age group who are likely to be familiar with church already. Researchers at the University of Wolverhampton will assess the effectiveness of the trial through the questionnaire. Rob Merchant from the research team said: "Figures from the Christian Research Association show that approximately half of the 20 million people aged 50 or over in the UK have had some experience of church, either through Sunday school or in later life. We want to further our understanding of the relevance church has for them." The campaign has been backed by a Christian businessman, who has underwritten the cost of the resources to local churches, and by the Co-Op supermarket who provided the Fairtrade chocolate bars.
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