Our church is a broad and diverse one, spanning rural and urban communities. More than 40% of parishes are classified as rural, and along with our colleagues in the Congregational Learning Team, we are keen to share some of their Good News stories.
Rural Good News Stories
The Rural Working Group
The Church of Scotland supports and resources rural congregations through the Rural Working Group. The work of the group is carried out by Council members and co-opted individuals who have insights and interest in the rural context. The remit of the group is:
- To identify and raise the profile of the needs of rural congregations and presbyteries
- To identify and enable engagement with the ministry and missional opportunities found in rural areas
- To identify and signpost specific rural resources
- To facilitate involvement with and arrangement of regional and/or national events with a rural focus
- To provide advice on specific queries directed to the Church on rural issues
- To liaise with the Scottish Churches Rural Group to ensure appropriate ecumenical co-operation
The Church of Scotland Rural Working Group works within the Church’s Congregational Learning Team. Contact Hannah Sanderson, who is pleased to hear from anyone with an interest in rural church.
Fogo Parish Church is a tiny, rural church with hundreds of years of history, but the congregation had dwindled to single figures. The Presbytery of Duns granted a three-year spell in guardianship and appointed an interim moderator and three assessor elders to support the struggling congregation.
Three years later the congregation is out of guardianship and appears to have a bright future with a non-stipendiary minister appointed by presbytery with the approval of the congregation, with a Kirk Session of seven elders (with two more in training) and a regular weekly attendance of around thirty folk worshipping in a newly restored church building which no matter when one visits is always warm and dry.
What has led to this mini-revival? The minister says that it is down to traditional ministry, a bit of luck, and seeing problems as opportunities. Once a month the minister visits every home in the parish with a breezy newsletter, the first took the parish by surprise as everyone had assumed that their church was now closed.
Worship is participative with the minister welcoming, preaching and pronouncing the benediction. Everything else is led by members of the congregation: At least a dozen people are equipped and willing to share in the leading of worship Sunday by Sunday.
We started doing Cafe Church about a year ago. It happens monthly and is an early start at 9.30am. We have coffee and bacon rolls and other breakfast things. The first half an hour is just catching up and then at 10 we start, well I don’t want to say “start the service” but we do have most of the traditional components but we do them in a different and informal way
It’s been successful. Most of the people who would come to the normal church service come to cafe church. It is in the village hall and there is something important about it not being in the church. We have one or two people come who have not come into the church building before. We regularly get around 30 people and a lot of the locals have enjoyed the informality and the opportunity to talk about real, important things: To talk about their faith round the table.
We sing songs and they can be traditional or contemporary and that has led to some interesting conversation about what type of music helps people engage with God.
We pray, sometimes in a traditional style and sometimes more innovatively and interactively, perhaps using a prayer tree or spreading out the newspapers to connect with what is happening in the world.
Our bible readings tend to be contemplative, asking “what do you hear from these words, what are you prompted to think and do in response” – this often leads to lively chat. I don’t deliver a sermon, it is more about asking some questions or giving a few thoughts that lead to conversation, I might ask them to reflect on those things alone, then discuss on the table before perhaps feeding back to a whole room discussion.
I think there is more theological reflection going on at cafe church than I am aware of going on at traditional services. I am pleased that most people do come and even those in the congregation who are great supporters of very traditional forms of worship come along and have said they enjoy it and receive from it.
The Kemnay Kirk Anytime Anywhere project was conceived to help make church more accessible to people who could not attend for a variety of reasons. Littlewood Court is the local sheltered housing complex where a number of residents would find it difficult or impossible to get to church services some of whom are long time church attendees. This became a core focus for our project which was called Kemnay Church Anytime Anywhere (KKAA). The broad objectives were to provide a system which facilitate the live viewing of church services and also provided a catchup service where people who miss a service for any reason can view it when convenient any time.
A subgroup of our Outreach working group was formed and work started to detail our requirements. We wanted to ensure that the system did not cause any distraction to the normal operation of any service but gave any remote viewers a sense of being present. We also wanted where possible to extend a sense of community to those listening. As the project evolved, two main threads of development became evident. The Technical specification of the systems needed, the people needed to operate this and also the setup of a rota of people who would provide a presence where people gather to watch the services.
For many years the church provided a service where audio recordings of services on Audio CD where handed to people who could not attend. This was popular particularly with people who live alone and could not make it to the Sunday service. A few users still receive these recordings today.
We were able to form a proposal for the expansion of our existing church AV system through the addition of four cameras, video mixing desk and web streaming equipment. Audio feeds where taken from the existing sound desk and a video feed from the video projection computer. The cameras are remotely controlled from the Audio Visual Desk area and the video signals can be switched/mixed to send camera or projection screen video to the live stream.
Twenty-two years ago, a group of church youth leaders in rural Berwickshire met to pray about the decline in the number of young people attending their churches. By the end of that time of prayer, they all felt that God was telling them to go into the places where the young people were – their schools. They asked headteachers whether they would welcome their involvement and received a very positive response. They presented their vision to local church leaders who agreed to provide financial support for the establishment of a Trust, which became an Associate Trust of Scripture Union. So Berwickshire Christian Youth Trust (BCYT) was born.
BCYT is supported by churches in Berwickshire to be their agent in schools to reach out to young people. Its management committee consists of representatives from local churches, who support the one full-time and one part-time schools worker whom the Trust employs. For much of their work, they rely on the support of volunteers from churches to run Bible clubs during lunchtimes in schools, to take assemblies, to introduce a Christian dimension into the curriculum at the request of headteachers and to run weekend camps, summer holiday clubs and activity days during half-terms. Churches are pleased to support the Trust financially, and to provide volunteers, because they see this, in many cases, as their only outreach to young people, or as complementing their own youth work.