It’s official: good relationships keep us happier and healthier. Rural churches play a key part in enhancing the well-being of local communities. As well as encouraging social connections, churches help local people to find an eternal perspective in a relationship with God through Jesus Christ.
I have just been writing a detailed response to a public consultation about the Lower Thames Crossing (LTC). There are a whole host of issues related to the impact of the construction of this massive project: compulsory purchase of homes, removal of public footpaths and highways, re-routing of villages, damage to the environment, road closures, loss of animal, bird and insect habitats, stables and farmland.
Swinton Village Choir started with a simple premise: meet for a few weeks before a community Christmas event and prepare a few songs to supplement a programme of sing-a-long carols and performance pieces by local children. Many of those who came along had never sung in a choir before but enjoyed singing Christmas songs and thought it would be good fun. The local music teacher agreed to lead rehearsals and actively encouraged participation and laughter in equal measure, so no one felt intimidated.
When people think of Leicester, many immediately think of a Midlands ex-industrial red-brick city with a multi-cultural flavour. These days they also recall a King found in a car park and the underdog winners of football’s Premier League. However, the vast majority of the Diocese of Leicester is actually rural.
Historically, church buildings were not just places for worship but a space for the wider community to come together and use. Going back to these community roots can offer today’s buildings a new lease of life, while also encouraging more people to encounter God in His holy place.
Up and down the country thousands of new houses are being built, many in large new housing areas. From proposed Garden Villages of several thousand houses to small add-on estates of six properties in a farmyard, new housing is a hot topic of conversation in many local communities.
Captain Gordon Banks CA from the Diocese of Lichfield thinks that it is important for the local church to put in place a strategic plan as part of its thinking about and response to the opportunities new housing can have. He suggests the following framework for reflection…
Langar Church of England Primary School is a small rural school in the Diocese of Southwell and Nottingham. With just under one hundred pupils, it has spent the last four years putting values at the heart of everything it does. They started by asking ‘who do we want to send out into the world?’ The headteacher, Emily Brown, is passionate about the impact this has had on both the school and the wider community.
Based in the beautiful countryside of the Vale of Glamorgan, the Amelia Trust Farm is a pioneering and successful Methodist mission project. It was the brainchild of Bob and Ethel Huggard who wanted to support disadvantaged young people in mainstream education who found it hard to learn in a traditional classroom setting. In 1990 the Huggards donated land to create a rural lung and a countryside sanctuary for everyone to enjoy, and named the Farm Trust after Bob’s mother Amelia.
Broad Chalke is a small Wiltshire village with big ideas and a caring heart. It lies in the Chalke Valley, midway between Salisbury and Shaftesbury, and is blessed with a beautiful medieval parish church of considerable size. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to use for anything other than large services and events, and doesn’t have the flexibility for more informal community gatherings.
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