"Top Ten" possibe areas for churches to respond to community needs

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Many suggestions and opportunities for churches to serve their communities arose in the course of the research project - Aspects of Life in North Devon and Torridge and the Church's Response. Many churches will already be engaged in many of them, but some may be new. Some may be appropriate for individual churches, some for groups, and some for action on a wider geographical scale.


If anyone would like more information, to discuss any of these or other ideas further please contact me on penelopedobbin@outlook.com

In the approximate order in which they appear in the report, perhaps the project team’s top ten priorities are:

Community Life:

To seek to address some of the issues and explore what the church can do to support the sustainability of our rural communities, both in practical projects on the ground in individual communities, through further research and working strategically with partners.

Spiritual Health:

To model a welcoming, loving Christian community at the heart of every human community and to nurture the spiritual health of local communities in the widest sense of the word spiritual. This could include, for example, exploring the spirituality of ageing, the sense of belonging and how the church might help where this is breaking down, and offering the hospitality of listening, compassion and places to be still.

Pastoral Care:

To continue, and perhaps expand, formal and informal pastoral care in all our communities, focusing particularly on those who may be lonely, isolated, or frail, through visiting, befriending and group activities. To create a directory of such activities that can be shared with others involved in caring for the elderly, lonely or otherwise vulnerable people.

Rural Business:

To explore how we can support our rural businesses pastorally and practically, reducing isolation and helping to grow our rural economy and provide good quality local employment and supply chains.

Education and families:

To explore every avenue to support our schools, children and families. For many reasons, too many of our children are unable to fully access their education, yet education is the key to improving health and social inequality. Closely allied to this would be to help all our young people to experience life as widely as possible, to reflect on their vocation in the world of work and what it means for them to achieve their full potential.

Church Assets - buildings, people, networks, knowledge:

To use the assets of our buildings, people, networks and community knowledge, to work with partners in the public and community sectors to make the best use of our combined resources for the care of our communities. To explore imaginative uses for our buildings such as work hubs and locally based surgeries for town based agencies. To make the most of the church’s role in being able to offer local knowledge of how each community ‘works’ to those wishing to develop locally based community/social care projects in Devon. To use the church’s community contacts to draw people together and work with other agencies to build bridges and forge new connections, working in partnership in our shared concern to meet human needs. To explore the opportunities which the “Growing the Rural Church” project offers for community engagement and the use of our buildings.

Farming:

To do everything possible to get to know and understand the working lives and concerns of our farming community, and to offer support especially through working with the Farming Community Network and market chaplaincy teams, perhaps with training for additional church based pastoral care.

Environment:

To continue to be alert to the opportunities for joining in with church based environmental initiatives promoted and supported by the Church and Society team and to one-off opportunities that may arise locally, working with our local communities. To join with the nature based organisations in developing activities that promote “connecting people and nature” looking especially at benefits to mental and spiritual health.

Local Partnerships and community service:

To develop our networks of contacts and relationships with people working in the private, public and community sectors serving our communities, exploring our common aims and what we may be able to do together. Through networking and local “ears to the ground” to be alert to, and well informed, of both national and local socio-economic, environmental and community issues affecting people in our communities and to share this understanding within our congregations. To reflect on the gifts each particular church can offer in its own place and time, how they can be best used as part of the whole community of care with partners in other churches and secular groups and agencies, to support people in their communities. To serve in such a way that we are “doing with”, “not doing to” or “doing for” thus honouring the gifts and contributions of all and so that all serve and all are served.

Trust and Celebration:

To “seek first the kingdom of God”, trusting that all the things we need will follow, and, to Celebrate the Good News – wherever it may be found.