Church enjoying growth in popularity

Bucks Free Press: Church enjoying growth in popularity Church enjoying growth in popularity

AROUND Christmas time you often hear the phrase that is has become too commercialised, that people have forgotten the true meaning of the day and the pressure of having the perfect day is not what it is all
about.

But St Mary's in Princes Risborough is making sure the story of Jesus is heard and appears to be bucking the trend as its congregation grows.

In the last year numbers have increased by 50 per cent. Over the three services every Sunday an average of 300 people attend and at Christmas it rises to 1,000.

Bryan Matthew, who is on the church council and a member of the congregation, said they have realised that churches need to change with the times.

The church has undergone a refurbishment in the last two years and is ready to cater for all types of community events. As well as holding various church activities they have life groups, including baking and sewing.

It also holds services for younger people called Thank God It's Sunday, which is a more informal service, and yet also holds the traditional Holy Communion service.

Bryan, 54, who lives in Risborough said: "If you read some of the national press the general view is the Church of England is in crisis.

"We have got a thriving community."

Last month the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said buying expensive gifts at Christmas can spoil relationships.

He said he did not suggest that people should not give presents as it reflects the generosity of God but emphasised to be generous in a way that shows love and affection, rather than trying to buy it.

And Bryan agrees. He said: "I can remember people have been saying for the last 20 to 30 years that Christmas has become incredibly commercialised, which creates more pressure than anything else.

"People think they need the best presents, the best meal- and really it is unrealistic as it is so concentrated to one day.

"It is more about the spirit of Christmas. It is not about having the best meal and the best presents, it is part of it, but there is the more reflective side of it.

"It is one of the few times in the year people will get together with their extended family."

And from January to March the church will be running an Alpha Course, where people can explore all those big life questions which can spring to mind as this time of the year such as, '"Is there more to life than this?" It is run by Reverend Jim Taylor.

He said: "The idea is it was introduced about 20 years ago as an informal way to get people interested to come along and to understand what people believe in.

"There are debates and discussions."

They welcome everyone- whether they believe in God or not.

He added: "If there is a question they can't answer they will say there is no magical answer to everything."

Alpha at St Mary's Church in Church Lane, Princes Risborough starts on January 15 at 7.30pm and then runs every Wednesday until March 26. The evening will include food, a short presentation and an opportunity for small group discussions. For more details call 07749 816265 or email revdjimtaylor@gmail.com. It is free.

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