Bottles of beer were given to fathers who attend church, in an alternative “blessing” for Father’s Day
A senior bishop has backed the move, which is part of a Church of England initiative to put a Christian emphasis on the annual celebration of fatherhood.
Concerns over the lack of men attending services year-round has led clergy to offer a range of incentives today, including free beer, bacon rolls and chocolate bars.
It is the first time that the Church has attempted to treat Fathers’ Day in the same way as Mothering Sunday, which has traditionally formed part of its calendar.
The plan to distribute ale has upset groups working to tackle alchohol abuse, but the Rt Rev John Inge, the Bishop of Worcester, said that it could help churches to attract more men.
He argued that the free beer was intended to be symbolic of “the generosity of God.”
Men at St Stephen’s church in Barbourne, Worcester, will be handed bottles of beer by children during the service. A prayer will be said for the fathers before the gifts are distributed.
The Ven Roger Morris, archdeacon of Worcester, who will be leading the service at St Stephen’s today, said that it was a practical way of sending a message to fathers.
“I don’t see any other time that we can stop and remember fathers, and this is a gesture saying ‘Here’s something that will bless you,'” he said.
“Posies of flowers are given to mums on Mothering Sunday and we wanted to give a laddish, blokeish gift to the men. A bottle of beer hits the mark. The whole of life is to be celebrated in church.”
However, Don Shenker, chief executive of Alcohol Concern, criticised the Church, claiming that it was acting irresponsibly.
“Bearing in mind the country is facing rising health harms from its high level of alcohol consumption, anyone in a position of authority or respect should perhaps think twice about promoting alcohol to the public,” he said.
Bishop Inge said that it was wrong to claim that the move would encourage alcholism, and encouraged churches to use it as a way to reach out to men.
“Jesus created a lot more wine at a point in the party when some thought that there had already been enough drinking. He was all in favour of partying,” the bishop said.
“We give wine away every Sunday, so giving away beer could be said to going downmarket a bit, but it’s an attempt to speak of God’s generosity.
“It’s something that could be used as part of a service to encourage fathers to come. Once they are in church, hopefully they will be challenged by the deeper questions around fatherhood.”
The bishop said that the Church was keen to support fathers and “to do everything possible to encourage them to take their responsibility very seriously”.
A survey conducted by Opinion Business Research (ORB) found that less than a fifth of men claim to attend some type of church service once a month, compared with more than a quarter of women.
Some churches are trying to lure men back with the offer of free food. St Michael’s, Amersham, Buckinghamshire, is holding a Hog Roast on the church forecourt and St Mary’s, Arnold, Nottingham, will serve bacon rolls as men arrive at its service.
The Church has also published resources for clergy to use to hold special Fathers’ Day services, including prayers for children to thank their fathers.
Source: The Telegraph – June 20, 2009