On September 20th people from eleven churches gathered at North Nibley Chapel to think through some of the joys and difficulties of being rural. The Learning and Development Department had surveyed rural churches and put together a programme based on what they wanted.
The venue itself was a wonderful story of hope and regeneration and the team from North Nibley showed us great hospitality. We began with some broad brushstrokes as Barry Osbourne helped us consider how our villages had changed over the past fifty years and some of the characteristics of rural life- issues we need to understand if our mission within our communities is to be meaningful. We then had a time of story-sharing starting in pairs and then as a whole group. When have we seen our local communities come together in a positive way? What do we see as life-giving in our villages and where can we, as churches, make links to the gospel? We heard stories about Christmas carol marathons and prayer tents at village fetes. We thought about the priestly, prophetic and evangelical role of our churches.
After a hearty pub lunch (which was right next door) and lots of social chat we then thought about the opposite. We discovered the extent of rural isolation and loneliness with the aid of Glyn Evans the Rural Officer for the Oxfordshire Diocese and Sheila Furlong from the Archway Foundation. Who might be lonely? Is it always the people we expect?
- The activity sheet that Barry Osbourne used;
- and a PDF of his PowerPoint presentation about understanding rural communities can be found here.
- Rural Mission Solutions, the organisation that Barry work for, can be found here
- The paired story-sharing questions that Suzanne Nockels prepared can be found here
- The Methodist Bible Study Material that looks at rural churches as having a priestly, prophetic and evangelical role can be found here
- Glyn Evans’ report about loneliness can be found here
- Information about the Archway Foundation can be found here
What’s a small thing that churches can do to start tackling loneliness within and outside the fellowship? Is this a pastoral or a justice issue? The day ended with Chris Saunders a youth worker in the South Cotswolds sharing his insight and experiences. He focussed very much on the quality of relationship rather than numbers.
Worship was led by Joy Howell and Sue Convey.
Thank you to all who came, our speakers, our LD Administrator Jemma , Joy Howell and the North Nibley team on the ground. LIKEWISE shows the value of churches in similar situations meeting up and inspiring each other.