Way back in 2004, the Church of England launched its ‘Back to ChurchSunday,’ where it made extra efforts to attract people who may, at one point in the past, have been church-goers but had now abandoned it. As an initiative it has grown ever since then and, along with ALPHA, is a successful preaching method.
However, its been tough for the Church here in Britain ever since the end of the Second World War. Getting people to come to church in their local town has become a hard task, harder than at any time in the history of Christianity.
Attitudes to almost all the big questions of life changed drastically after the War. People had more questions for God – and about God – than it seemed the priests could answer. The world had seen millions of innocent people die because of idealogical conflict; wasn’t it better to moderate one’s personal beliefs in order to have lasting peace?
Then in the Fifties they invented television; and then along came the Sixties. And if that wasn’t enough, in 1994 the UK Government allowed shopping on a Sunday, something quite unthinkable before that time. Very quickly, Sunday went from being the Christian ‘day of rest’ – which traditionally included church – and became the day for shopping and just about anything other than worship. In 2011, there are many things that people get up to on a Sunday, but they don’t all involve God.
And what of the Hare Krishna movement? How are we doing at filling up our pews on a Sunday?
Well to start with, we don’t have a day of the week which is our special day of worship. For the Muslims its Friday, for the Jews Friday night and most of Saturday, and for the Christians its Sunday. For the Vaishnavas it is every day of the week, of course, and we’re quite happy to tell others that.
But many people do not have time to come to a Krishna temple on a work day. In India there are temples everywhere, and people tend to work relatively close to their homes – at least outside the major cities – but in the rest of the world its not like that at all. The Krishna temple may be a small place right down town, or a larger place miles outside the city.
So historically, we have arranged our week to fit in with the working pattern of the countries where we have temples. In Israel, the Hare Krishnas have a Saturday Feast, but in most other places – borrowing from the Christian culture – we have a Sunday Feast. That’s fine if people in your town do pre-war Sunday type things on a Sunday. But if Sunday has become the day for shopping, DIY, gardening and visiting friends then we’ll have to factor that into feast and festival planning.
What day is it best for people to come? And when they do come, what will make them return with enthusiasm? And how do we care for them after the novelty of the first few months has worn off?