You may have read or heard national media reports on the Church of England in decline and dire consequences ensuing. Well, not on our watch. The parish has been bucking the trend and is seeing growing congregations both online and in person.
Though we were shut for many months last year because of Covid, we’ve seen new people coming to church when we have been able to be open and lots of people joining in online with our services, groups and festivals we have run.
Lesley Crawley says: “This has been a time of extraordinary change for us all and we have had to adapt to the challenges and respond in a way which meets the needs of those around us. Going online had been one obvious response and it is something we should have done years ago, alongside our services in church. There are lots of people who would like to come to church but can’t for whatever reason – disability, caring responsibilities, ill health, shift work and the like – so being able to access online services when they like is a real bonus. What’s more they can take part by recording readings, prayers etcetera.
“We’ve also really involved people in the services in the churches themselves, ensuring that it’s a whole-church event rather than just the same people standing up the front and speaking. So we have families doing drama for instance, or reading poetry and they have really enjoyed it.
“But it’s not just the numbers, we have also thought carefully about how we relate to everyone around us. So we have, run online events – our latest is a poetry festival – and looked at how we can use the buildings better, make them more accessible, change the way we do outreach, really get serious about church health and develop ambitious plans for the future. We have seen this as an opportunity to understand what our community wants from us and how we can share God’s love with everyone so that everyone feels welcomed and valued whoever they are and whatever their circumstances.”
Watch out for more changes and growth as we continue to seek God’s will and respond to people around us.