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Delegates gather for festival of faith and hope in our rural communities

Salt and Light Festival

group gathered outside

Delegates from five northern Church of England dioceses gathered near Hadrian’s Wall last weekend in a celebration of our rural communities.

The Salt and Light Festival is a partnership involving Newcastle, Carlisle, Durham, Leeds and York dioceses and saw those leading and working in the rural north exploring opportunities for spiritual growth, discussing economic challenges and sharing ideas and learning.

The festival took place at The Sill National Landscape Discovery Centre near Hexham on 14th and 15th June and followed the success of a similar event, ‘Small, Faithful, Rural’ in 2022 which also brought together rural specialists from across the northern dioceses.

Keynote speakers and workshops at ‘Salt and Light’ helped explore the historical, spiritual, and socio-economic lenses through which we can understand our contexts.

Speakers included:

  • Frances Ward, author, theologian and former Dean of St Edmundsbury
  • Michelle Brown, cultural historian and author of one of the History Today books of 2023, Bede and the Theory of Everything
  • Patrick Laurie, hill farmer, blogger and author of Native: Life on a Vanishing Landscape which was shortlisted for the “Wainwright Prize for UK Nature Writing”
  • Sally Shortall, Duke of Northumberland Chair of Rural Economy at Newcastle University. 

Leading the welcome at the conference was the Bishop of Newcastle, the Revd Dr Helen-Ann Hartley.

Bishop Helen-Ann said: “I am extremely proud of our rural communities and the crucial role they play in the life of our region. The Church is often at the very heart of these communities, so it is important that we play an important part in helping ensure they survive and flourish, both spiritually and economically. Many of the challenges they face will be similar across our five dioceses, so this is a wonderful opportunity for us not only to celebrate these communities, but also to share learning on how to protect them for future generations.”

To find out more about the our work in rural communities, contact the Diocesan Rural Life Adviser, the Revd Caroline Pinchbeck: