Local churches should learn to see themselves as assets in their communities, as community enablers, networkers and story tellers who have been in business for 2000 years, said the Revd Caroline Pinchbeck, speaking to 28 people who met at Wydale Hall in May to discuss ‘Futures for the Rural Church’.

Before her recent arrival as Vicar of the Market Weighton group and Area Dean of South Wold, Caroline was Rural Life Adviser in the Diocese of Canterbury; she spoke of her own experiences and the present and future challenges of hidden poverty and isolation, demographic changes, increasing housebuilding, pressures on the farming communities and the decline in services in rural areas.

Pilgrimage, history, churchyards, agricultural markets, schools and civil-political groupings represent just some of the opportunities for sharing the Christian story offered by rural life, she said, prompting a lively discussion which identified keys to this sharing such as good relationships, social capital, partnerships, humour and open conversations about faith.

Bishop of Selby Dr John Thomson, the Archbishop’s Ambassador for Rural Life in the Diocese, said, “This was a small but encouraging gathering following the larger event in April 2018 at Norton College.

“We were able to pinpoint small practical steps, such as having a toilet, a small kitchenette and keeping the church open as vital for rural churches’ futures, and as encouraging the ‘silent congregation’ who visit during the week rather than simply on Sunday.

“The demographic of rural areas is changing, and we explored the use of new technologies and forms of communication and the importance of asking ‘what does the community need?’ rather than replicating existing initiatives.”

The meeting also highlighted the opportunities for rural and community action and outreach offered by the Archbishop’s Mission Fund and Leadership Training in Schools.

You can contact the Rural Life and Faith Group to help rural churches think further about their rural futures:

  • Howard Petch, Revd Richard Battersby (York Archdeaconry)
  • Revd Richard Parkinson (East Riding Archdeaconry)
  • Revd Mark Brosnan (Cleveland Archdeaconry)
  • Revd Caroline Pinchbeck (South Wold Deanery)

Look out for future events for rural churches.