Beating the path to a rural revival

ByDave Hall

Beating the path to a rural revival

The Church is the biggest grass-roots organisation in the country so healthy churches are an important sign of a healthy society.

So said the Bishop of Exeter, the Rt Rev Robert Atwell (pictured below), making his maiden speech in the House of Lords in November.

‘Village churches are at the heart of rural communities,’ he stressed. ‘We need to strive for open church doors and open virtual doors.’

Rt Revd Robert Atwell, Bishop of Exeter

Sarah Cracknell, project manager for the Church of England’s Grow the Rural Church initiative, will lead two seminars on the subject at CRE South West (12 noon, Wed 23 Feb and 3pm, Thu 24 Feb) – two of 40 scheduled during the exhibition’s two days.

‘The Covid-19 pandemic has meant many people are rediscovering the gift of “local” and finding imaginative solutions to the challenges confronting us,’ she said. ‘For the first time many are working from home and investing in their village. We are discovering new ways of doing church, worshipping together online and connecting with the fringe in a way our urban cousins have been yearning to do for years.’

Grow the Rural Church Project is an eight-year project that has been running in the Diocese of Exeter since 2017. Jointly funded by the Church Commissioners Strategic Development Unit, it was set up to support rural churches in finding sustainable uses for church buildings – and to enable exhausted and burdened church communities find capacity for mission.

‘The mid-point of our project funding coincided with the first lockdown and we had to find new ways of working,’ said Sarah. ‘We used the time to deeply evaluate the situation. This CRE seminar will share the main points that we learned from the first half of the project and how we have adapted to support our vulnerable rural churches.’

Visitors will discover more about the resources the project has produced, including Lightening the Load, a self-assessment toolkit for churches, and guidance and support for festival churches in Devon. Sarah will also share the story of the development of the missional project Devon Pilgrim – an initiative developed in partnership with some rural churches, offering a different way of collaborating and sharing resources. 

‘Devon Pilgrim has brought new energy into churches and established new relationships with people outside the church,’ she explained. ‘As well as increasing visitor footfall to the church buildings it gives an opportunity for people asking spiritual questions to look to the church for answers.’

• Grow the Rural Church are on stand C24 at CRE South West

Book your tickets to CRE South West! – and save up to £5

Seminar Guide – See the complete guide to seminars at CRE South West 2022

Your invitation – See an online version of the CRE South West 2022 brochure

Our next exhibitions

CRE South West 2022
23-24 February 2022
Westpoint, Exeter

CRE National 2022
11-13 October 2022
Sandown Park, Surrey

About the author

Dave Hall author