Rural hope - relationship building

13 April 2022

Sarah Hulme, Rural Mission & Ministry Officer,  shares a hopeful story from rural Somerset  where a small church is bringing communities together in new and creative ways.



Sharing our hope of resurrection and new life is certainly something at the forefront of our minds over this period of Eastertide. In my previous blog, I explored the image of a fire lily and invited readers to share any examples of ‘small, un-showy, rural hope’. The act of sharing stories of hope spreads ripples of encouragement and so I pray that you will be, as I was, so encouraged to read this contribution below from Jacquelene Seel the Community Development Worker at Churchill Methodist, part of the Somerset Mendip Circuit.

For me, this story of rural hope tells of the benefits of long-term investment in relationship building, a willingness to try something different, creativity amidst challenges, ecumenical collaboration – what can be achieved when we work together across boundaries, the importance of demonstrating a visible presence in the community, and the boldness to share our small offering in order to encourage others who may yet be considering how to try something like this in their local community.

Here is Jacquelene’s story of hope:

“Similar to many rural churches, the last ‘Sunday School’ at Churchill Methodist was over a decade ago. In 2018, our minister and congregation agreed that being close to nature, whether in a garden, park or wild place, helped many of us feel closer to God. Our vision was to pioneer a monthly intergenerational format with nature inspired activities and crafts, making use of outdoor rural spaces where possible (apple orchard, bluebell woods and beach) and always including a Bible story with prayer. In August 2018, we had our first Sunday afternoon gathering with hotdogs, jelly and ice cream. Since then, the number of regular and occasional families has gradually grown.

"During the pandemic, we kept in touch with families by delivering ‘Message Bags’ which included the Bible story, prayer ideas and themed crafts. Gradually, we re-started in person with outdoor gatherings and during the dark winter months, we have been able to meet in our hall. Through festival services and social events, morning worshipping seniors and ‘CREATE!Sunday’ afternoon families have been getting to know each other. This is what hope looks like for our small rural church – fragile, small and un-showy, but with colour.

"In February we collaborated ecumenically in the village with St Mary’s Messy Church team from the neighbouring village and held an outreach event designed to draw together locals from traditional village homes and the newer estates across both villages. Outside Churchill Methodist the old, weathered wizened holly tree, was given a makeover when local families and seniors adorned it with salt dough love hearts, ribbons and flowers on a Saturday morning in February, as a display of the community Love Bomb coordinated by churches in Churchill and Langford.

"This two centre ‘splash’ event attracted families and seniors – 150 people, many of whom were new contacts. The aim of our ecumenical ‘splash’ events is to show our churches are alive and kicking and  sow seeds of the gospel message by giving people an experience they want to share afterwards with their own family and friends.”

Many thanks to Jacquelene for taking the time to encourage us all with her local example of rural hope. Please do share your local stories of #ruralhope too, either using the # when posting on social media, or by emailing Sarah Hulme - find her contact details here.