Su Reid, Reader in Whorlton Benefice, writes:

We all ‘Live Christ’s Story’, or try to, in a particular time and in particular places.

We in the Whorlton Benefice in Stokesley Deanery are a group of eight villages. Our people now are farmers alongside doctors working in Teesside, and retired people and others of many callings. Our buildings and the fields around us tell us every day of both present and past: of new and old farming, of a squirearchy flourishing and declining with changing industries, of wars recent and ancient commemorated over centuries, of the Normans reshaping the world built by Saxons and Vikings.

Fifteen or so miles away is Middlesbrough, which did not exist two hundred years ago, and whose people live urban lives - seeing no fields or cows, no ripening crops, no ruined castle, and only the recent past around them.

How do we in one place live Christ’s story with people in a very different place, or they with us? How do people in Middlesbrough get to know us in rural North Yorkshire, or we them? It’s hard anyway, and harder in the time of Covid.

Elaine Curry lives in Easterside in Middlesbrough and is now an Ordinand studying at St Hild College, Mirfield. She ran a kids club, Starz, in Easterside for over ten years until Covid, and has kept in touch with those families throughout the time of pandemic. During the lockdowns, she did a rural ministry placement here in the Whorlton Benefice with our Rector, Revd Dr Robert Opala. She joined our Zoom services. She joined us in our church services when that was possible. We all became friends, and continue to be so.

So: on Tuesday August 10th Elaine hired a coach – thanks to a friend – and brought Starz children and mothers and friends – 33 children and 13 adults - out to Carlton-in-Cleveland. From there they walked, through fields and past cows, to Faceby for a picnic lunch; then on again to the ruined Norman church of Whorlton, to Whorlton Castle (also Norman, also ruined), and down to the Victorian Church of the Holy Cross built in 1877 by a local landowner for the growing village of Swainby, beside the Scugdale Beck. In Swainby there were comforting refreshments, crafts and building of castles inside and outside the wonderful modern Church Hall, and a bridge was built across the shallow beck. Then, after some singing rehearsals, there was a short service in the church, and a hot meal back in the Church Hall before the coach returned to take people home. Children and grown-ups from the villages and from Middlesbrough talked and played happily with each other. It didn’t rain much.

Elaine writes this: ‘Whilst I was on placement, the families would ask me where I was training and ask me lots of questions about my placement churches. And about what I am learning. This got me praying and thinking. I felt sad I couldn't take them with me. God said ‘Take them with you for a day out’. So I organised an adventure day with Lorna, Andrea, Diana, the Revd Lisa and the Revd Robert so that the families of Easterside can meet the rural churches were I have been over the past year and half. The Whorlton Benefice made us feel so welcome. … I felt God say ‘build a bridge’, and wanted both urban and rural people to get to know each other personally. I wanted to take the Easterside families I have had the pleasure to get to know along with me. They are part of my journey from the very beginning. They are really behind me in my vocation.’

We in small rural congregations are very threatened by falling incomes and falling numbers of regular worshippers actually in church. But we are not islands! Our work in our villages, and our friendships with people living in very different places, are surely major contributions to the life of Christ’s story? All our lives are enriched by this day together. We hope to build more bridges in this way – and so to share Christ’s story in real time.