Synod backs cafe church
The Church of England has supported changes in its traditional parish structure including a range of new church styles, such as "cafe churches".
The church's general synod, meeting in London, enthusiastically endorsed a report which looked at developing new ways of being and doing church.
The report conceded that the established church needed to change if it was to reach more people on their own terms.
Graham Cray, bishop of Maidstone and chairman of the working party which drew up the report, told the synod: "It is clear to us that the parochial system remains an essential and central part of the national church's strategy, but the existing parochial system alone is no longer able fully to deliver its underlying missionary purpose."
Creating new churches - usually called church planting - can be controversial if attempts are made to subvert existing parishes. The report however advocates any setting up of a church to be done in agreement with existing parishes.
James Jones, the Bishop of Liverpool, said that over time people found "new ways of belonging". He added: "It is into this culture that the gospel needs to be translated and proclaimed afresh to this generation ... Far from throwing the baby out with the bathwater it is suggesting a new shape to the bath."
Some parishes are already pioneering ways of attracting worshippers. "Some people may be keen to meet with other Christians regularly, but it's no longer feasible for them to do that regularly on a Sunday. No one kind of worship can attract, much less hold, a major proportion of the varied population ... The church will be able to reconnect with society through a pattern of diversity and unity, rooted in the ... endlessly creative life of God."
The idea of "cafe church" which has recently caught the public imagination is one such idea which the report looks at. Rediscovering the place of food and drink in community and worship, cafe churches provide an environment which for many allows church to happen in a far more relaxing setting.
Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, told the synod: "We can say that already new kinds of church are appearing ... this is not an attempt to subvert the parochial system but to ask what are those questions which the system now is not answering."