ONE of the most senior church leaders in the town says people may be in for a welcome surprise if they return to church this Sunday.

Bishop of Warrington, the Rt Rev Richard Blackburn was speaking out in support of Back to Church Sunday, an annual event designed to encourage the millions of people who say they are Christians to visit a church.

According to the last census, more than 80 per cent of people in the area state their religion as Christian – but most of those do not attend church regularly.

Bishop Richard says it is time to change that.

He said: “We need to re-establish contact with people.

“I am comparing it to a football match. You need to be in the stadium to get the full experience rather than watching at home.

“And that is what people will get this weekend.

“People will be looking out for new people and helping them if they need.

“Fear is the biggest issue for all of us when we go to a new environment. We want to take the fear out of church and I am asking people to give it a try.”

Bishop Richard, who has been in the position for a year, says churchgoing in Warrington is as strong as he has seen.

“There is a very high number of people attending church here and across the north west as a whole.

“People will be surprised this weekend at how user-friendly it is. People won’t find dusty hymn books, many churches have overhead projectors.”

Last week’s Papal visit threw the spotlight on faith in the UK and, according to the Bishop, a former Natwest employee in South Yorkshire, it showed the ‘silent majority’ who believe in God.

“I think the Papal visit has shown faith means more then we have thought.

“People are often very retiscent about admitting to faith, perhaps because they do not fully understand it themselves.

“This is not a secularised society, there is a lot of deep rooted faith in this country which people may find difficult to articulate.”

And Bishop Richard, who will be carrying out confirmations in Liverpool Cathedral on Sunday, says he hopes this weekend’s celebrations will show a glimpse of what the modern day church offers.

“Many years ago, church was a chance to pray and also party and I think some of that has been lost.

“So we invited people to try church for themselves and judge themselves. Fellowship is very much a part of the modern day church and people will be surprised maybe to get a drink and a chat afterwards.

“Prayer is still important but people should know there is much more to church.”