Castletown vicar Jules Gomes is one of a handful invited to join a task group on intentional evangelism established by the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby to address the issue of falling congregations.
Dr Gomes visited Lambeth Palace in March for the first meeting of the group, headed by the Archbishop, which comprises three diocesan bishops and 10 practitioners in different fields from England. Coming from the island, Dr Gomes is the only person from outside the UK on the committee.
He said: ‘It was a huge privilege to represent the Isle of Man in a very unique manner to fulfil one of the most demanding tasks of the church in the 21st century.’
Dr Gomes was invited, he said, because he has a reputation for being prepared to challenge convention.
The Archbishop is ‘hugely inspirational’ and a person who ‘knows how to get the job done’, said Dr Gomes. ‘He described the Church of England as reluctant to take risks. We don’t like to celebrate success and we are afraid of the word failure, he said. ‘And do we muddle along achieving nothing, he said.’
Dr Gomes added the Archbishop said: ‘It was the job of this task group to do all they could to see a culture change in the Church of England when it came to evangelism and a desire to see every church, every Christian embrace their calling and commitment to be those who proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ.’
Falling numbers are not a problem for Dr Gomes, who has seen his congregation at St Mary’s on the Harbour quadruple since he became vicar in Castletown in October 2012.
Some statistics suggest that since 1940, no diocesan Bishop upon retirement had seen the number of people going to church in their diocese rise. If this was true, every single diocesan Bishop had presided over decline.
‘One of the reasons we are bucking the trend is because we don’t dumb down our services and our teaching.
‘We aim to be excellent in everything we do. God deserves the best and the people of the Isle of Man deserve the best,’ he said.
‘The most exciting factor is that from no children at services we now have 17 to 20 children taking a full part each Sunday at our main services.
‘We don’t patronise them but treat them with the respect they deserve.’
The church is now seeking ways of extending the building to cope with the growing numbers in the congregation.
‘We share a common interest in the well being of us all. We need to partner with people inside and outside the church because ultimately this is for the well being of us all. It’s engaging with the best of what society is all about and has to offer – cultural, philosophical, scientific, artistic and literary – all that makes life worth living,’ said Dr Gomes.
‘I would love to make the church a safe place to do risky things for God. Let’s take risks. It doesn’t matter if we fail. We can learn from failure as much as we learn from success.’