A dancing bishop, a cathedral packed with childen - Ely Diocese launches its campaign to bring people back to church and keep them

PUBLISHED: 15:27 29 September 2015 | UPDATED: 15:27 29 September 2015

Bishop of Ely at Ely Cathedral for launch of diocescan strategy

Bishop of Ely at Ely Cathedral for launch of diocescan strategy


He danced in the aisle with children but it was clear from the outset that the bishop’s intention was to reach out to young people – the congregation of the future.

Bishop Stephen Conway was taking part in a special service at Ely Cathedral to celebrate the launch of Fully Alive Strategy – a far reaching bid to discover ways and mean of keeping churches vibrant and well attended over the next 10 years.

Children were the undoubted stars of the service, with the youngest member of the congregation on Sunday receiving the strategy document from then bishop and laying it on the altar.

Readings, prayers, hymns and songs, were intermingled with the children bringing prayers and wishes for their future.

A diocesan spokesman said: “A united final act of commissioning set us firmly on the way towards Ely2025.”

Bishop of Ely at Ely Cathedral for launch of diocescan strategy Bishop of Ely at Ely Cathedral for launch of diocescan strategy

The strategy is the beginning of a campaign to stop dwindling congregations and to keep religion alive in Cambridgeshire.

Getting up to date with Facebook and Twitter, grandparent clubs, helping young families and closing small rural churches to hold meetings in homes are just some of the ideas suggested.

“Teenagers are more likely to return if they are not bored,” says the report.

“We recognise that the diocese’s engagement with schools is sometimes seen as a fringe activity.

Bishop of Ely at Ely Cathedral for launch of diocescan strategy Bishop of Ely at Ely Cathedral for launch of diocescan strategy

“We believe that the development of a diocesan strategy provides an opportunity to correct this view.”

One parishioner says in the report: “There are too many buildings with very small numbers to support them and this must be addressed no matter how painful. In my area there are church buildings with three in the congregation.”

Another said: “Get out from the comfort of the Ely Ivory Tower and the Cambridge area, come and meet your congregations who are trying their hardest to make the church something which will be vibrant and work well into the 22nd Century.”

In January a survey was commissioned by Paul Evans, diocesan secretary at Ely, and an online survey with 16 questions were answered by 681 people including clergy and congregation.

Feedback was compiled by the University of Cambridge Judge Business School.

The strongest themes were encouraging children to become “peace pioneers” of the future and to make sure everybody in the community felt part of the church - even if it was just to go inside the building to light a candle and enjoy the silence.

“The vision gives us a picture of the kind of church we hope to be, something to aim for. We have added further detail by committing ourselves to engage fully and courageously with the needs of our communities, locally and globally, to grow God’s church by finding disciples and nurturing leaders,” the report said.

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