Census response: Church is for life, not just Christmas, says Methodist General Secretary

Today's census figures have been described as "challenging butnot discouraging," by the Methodist General Secretary who says thatthe Church is there to serve others.

"These figures are a challenge to the Churches and reflect howBritish society has changed," said the Revd Dr Martyn Atkins. "Butwe are not discouraged. We are excited to be Christians in part ofan increasingly diverse, multi-faith society and we believe thatBritish society is enriched by this mix.

"It has always been clear to Methodists that the Church existsnot only for those who say they belong to it, but those who don't.We rejoice when Churches are growing, but we also rejoice when wecan share with others in transforming our world and our communitiesfor good. The numbers of people that attend worship on Sundays andon special occasions like Christmas are important, but they onlyshow a small part of the picture. Churches remain committed tomaking a difference to many more people's lives through the wideractivities of our communities, in church groups, fresh expressions,work in schools and places of community through volunteering,chaplaincies, being street pastors and good neighbours."

The Methodist Church's 7,471 outreach activities across Britainregularly serve more than 600,000 people, with elderly people,families and children under the age of thirteen as the primarybeneficiaries. More than 1,000 Methodist 'fresh expressions'committed to new ways of being 'church' have emerged over the lastfew years, from coffee-shopchatter in Stafford to bread-makingin Liverpool, from a children'splay-house in Yorkshire to sacredspaceon the Greenwich Peninsula. 

"The Census results mean we need to think and act smarter inseeking to be good witnesses to Jesus Christ today, and manyMethodists will relish that opportunity. We believe God continuesto be at work in Britain and elsewhere," added Martyn, "and weremain committed to working with God and being available to God forgood."