September 24, 2009

Church told to drop its M&S image

by Sara Levy

The Church of England must lose its middle class image and open its doors to worshippers of all backgrounds, a church leader said this week.

The Rt Rev Stephen Cottrell, Bishop of Reading, said church should be a place “where people can be just as they are”.

Christianity is “not a hobby but a way of life”, he said, adding that church is “not about how you look, what you do, how you sound, how well you sing.”

The bishop expressed frustration at the number of people he meets “who think you have to be highly educated or suited and booted to be a person who goes to church.”

“How did it come to this?” he asked.

“We have become known as just the Marks & Spencer option when in our heart of hearts we know that Jesus would just as likely be in the queue at Asda or Aldi?”

Jesus started the church by “sitting [people] down in groups on the grass and telling simple stories. Not simplistic. But certainly not complicated,” Cottrell said.

“All his first disciples were down-to-earth people who wanted to know what life was all about.”

Cottrell made the comments ahead of Back to Church Sunday on 27 September.

Other bishops supporting the Back to Church initiative include Rt Rev Steven Croft, Bishop of Sheffield, who said: “The Church of England is learning to become again the church for the whole nation – poor and rich.”

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