Weekly religion rail, with news on Back to Church Sunday Sept. 12, a new book on Mother Teresa and more.

More than 1 million people so far have been invited to attend a church service on Sunday, Sept. 12, as a result of this year’s national Back to Church Sunday campaign, and more than 3,000 churches have signed on to take part.

In 2009, the first year of the campaign, more than 700,000 invitations were sent out and more than 1,500 churches signed up.

"Seeing the number of invitations eclipse 1 million encourages me to believe that God is actively using Christians to impact their communities," said Philip Nation, the national spokesman for Back to Church Sunday.

Since last year, the Back To Church Sunday movement has sought to reverse declining church attendance in America and encourage those who once attended to get plugged in again to a congregation.

Although 83 percent of American adults identify themselves as Christians, only about 20 percent attend church on any given Sunday, said campaign organizers. Yet a study by LifeWay Research and the North American Mission Board found that 67 percent of Americans say a personal invitation from a family member would be effective in getting them to visit a church. A total of 63 percent said the same regarding an invitation from a friend or neighbor.

-- The Christian Post

Week in Religion

On Aug. 31, 1861, Jess Brown Pounds was born. Pounds would go on to become one of the most prolific hymn writers in the U.S. During her life, she would publish nine books and more than 400 religious song texts. One of her best known hymns is “The Way of the Cross Leads Home.”

On Sept. 1, 1772, Father Junipero Serra founded the Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa in San Luis Obispo, Calif. The mission became the fifth in the chain of missions founded by the priest.

On Sept. 2, 1666, the Great Fire of London began. The fire would burn for three days and destroy 10,000 buildings. One of the felled buildings was St. Paul’s Cathedral.

Survey Says

A new survey shows that a growing number of U.S. residents hold an unfavorable view of Islam.

The survey, conducted by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press and the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, showed that 30 percent of respondents said they have a favorable opinion of Islam. A total of 38 percent of respondents reported they held an unfavorable view, while 32 percent said they had no opinion on the religion.

The number of U.S. residents with unfavorable opinions of Islam rose from 2005. During Pew’s survey in that year, 41 percent of U.S. residents said they had favorable views on Islam while 36 percent had unfavorable views.

The survey also showed that 74 percent of Republicans agree with people who oppose the building of an Islamic cultural center and mosque on the site of the former World Trade Center towers. A total of 47 percent of Democrats said they agreed with those who think the Islamic center should be allowed on the site.

Good Book?

“Where There is Love, There is God: A Path to Closer Union with God and Greater Love for Others,” by Mother Teresa

Mother Teresa’s relationship with God and her commitment to those she served — the poorest of the poor — is here powerfully explored in her own words. Taken largely from her private lessons to her sisters, “Where There is Love, There is God”unveils her extraordinary faith in and surrender to God’s will.

Though not an exhaustive anthology of Mother Teresa’s teaching, the book nonetheless shows what she believed and taught about important issues that confront all people. Because of her constant interaction with people of diverse backgrounds, no life situation was foreign to her, and in this book her role is primarily one of teacher and guide.

-- Amazon.com

Get to Know

John Wesley (1703-1791) founded the Arminian Methodist movement. His writings and organizational skills, along with those of his brother, Charles, planted the seeds for the Methodist religion.

Wesley helped form Methodist societies across Wales, Ireland, England and Scotland. He relied heavily on unordained preachers to evangelize to the members of these Methodist societies. This potentially risky move led to rapid growth as more followers, engaged by these preachers, flocked to the movement.

Wesley’s goal was to help every Christian attain the status of “perfect love.” If this happened, he wrote, the love of God and neighbor would reign supreme in the hearts of men and women.

The Word

Gap theory:The belief that there is a large interval of time between the first and second verses in the book of Genesis. By insertion of a gap at this point, Genesis is brought more closely into harmony with the conclusions of the vast majority of biological and Earth scientists who believe that evolution is a fact and that the Earth is about 4.5 billion years old.

-- ReligiousTolerance.org

Religion around the world: Religious makeup of Nepal

Hindu: 80.6 percent
Buddhist: 10.7 percent
Muslim: 4.2 percent
Kirant: 3.6 percent
Other: 0.9 percent

-- CIA Factbook

GateHouse News Service