Growing in God in the Countryside
We believe that bringing wholeness of life, and enabling rural communities to flourish, is God’s calling for the church in the Suffolk countryside. In this way we aim to be a means of God’s grace and a sign of God’s presence.
The church has always been an integral part of the life in our villages and market towns, but with small and declining congregations, our presence in many of these communities is becoming unsustainable. This is despite the percentage of villagers who are part of the church still being far higher than it is in urban parishes, and attendance at services at Christmas, Harvest, Remembrance and other special occasions being high and in many cases increasing.
This project aims to better enable us to build on the work the church is doing and the place it holds in our rural communities, develop new forms of worship, witness and service, making a difference for those who may have little or no contact with the church, and strengthening our existing congregations.
“In one of the most rural dioceses in the country we are responding to God’s call to be present in every community, so that more people can live in the light of God’s love as we work to combat hidden needs of particularly of isolation and deprivation across our county. That means developing different approaches to Christian witness, mission and service, and strengthening what we already do. I am thrilled that we can try new things, learn from what doesn’t work as well as what does, and so deepen our living and sharing of the Gospel in villages and towns across Suffolk.” said Bishop Martin.
This approach, to be adaptive to changes in the social and spiritual landscape includes, listening to people, being experimental and taking risks for mission, to try things out so we learn what works. On this journey, we will learn answers to questions like "how can more young families find faith?" or "how can we rebuild communities and enable people who have become isolated to be cherished?”
“It sounds complicated but really it is about simple Christian practices - listening, love and prayer. Prayer is one of the things that should go without saying for any Christian - the trouble is that it does tend to “go” without saying. And so I want to talk about prayer and pray often with others so that the work flows from listening to God and to people. There are a thousand wonderful possibilities - the challenge is to do the things in God’s heart.” says The Revd Canon Sally Gaze, Archdeacon for Rural Mission.
Archdeacon Sally is currently involved in creating a growing network community of dozens of small groups all over Suffolk dedicated to sharing the love of God in their villages.
Each group aims to do one activity together to make a difference locally or among people they know. Each group aims to live out these (ABCDE) values:
- All involved – everyone contributes something to the group meetings and activities.
- Becoming disciples – each group spends time with spiritual disciplines such as bible study, prayer, silence, hospitality and service, to help each other grow in character and in knowledge and love of Jesus.
- Creating community – the groups are actively building caring relationships beyond the group as well as aiming for loving community among themselves.
- Doing evangelism – this means witnessing to the good news of Christ in deeds as well as words. Each group actively plans to create opportunities together for people to discover more of Jesus.
- Encountering God – meeting with God transforms lives. So each group creates space and the expectation that members will meet with God while they meet each other.
These small groups are part of a network across Suffolk, which gives training, advice and support. To find out more please visit our page on the Suffolk Fresh Expressions Community or contact: Archdeacon Sally Gaze on email@example.com or 01473 635113.