"Church is alive and well in the Cotswolds"
A few weeks ago, Loving the Cotswolds put out a plea to readers to tell us whether they thought the Church in the Cotswolds was "alive, dead, or just irrelevant". We've received five written responses from people living in various towns and villages in the Cotswolds, all of which indicated in different ways that there is plenty for the Church to be optimistic about for the future, despite the general decline in church attendance over the past few decades.
Here are the responses in full:
1. Jo, Upper RissingtonFor me, church in the Cotswolds isn’t a draughty old building of honeyed stone. It isn’t the companionship of a quietly dwindling, aging population. It isn’t traditional hymns sung from wooden pews.
For me, church means a living, growing, authentic community of fellow-believers. We don’t have a church building; at the moment we meet in the village school and, during the week, in each other’s houses.
We are families with young children, teenagers, single adults, retired people. On a Sunday, we meet together for tea, coffee and cake – sometimes even bacon butties. We don’t have a vicar. We take turns to share God’s word with each other.
We join together in song – everything from children’s tunes with vigorous actions, to well-known hymns.
We pray together, we share testimonies and, perhaps, most importantly, we look outwards. Out beyond our growing church family to the community around us. We seek ways to serve other people, to meet them where they are, to show them something of God’s love and to welcome them.
Our village is both new and old. More than 300 new houses have been built up here in the last couple of years. That’s a lot of new people coming in and seeking ways to connect with their community, to put down roots and to establish new relationships.
Nearly every week, we see new faces arriving at our Sunday service. This is church on the frontline of community.
For me, church in the Cotswolds is CUR:ve, the church in Upper Rissington. And we’re living in exciting times!
2. Philip White, Chipping CampdenThe Church is alive and kicking! When we moved from London just over four years ago we rented a flat above a shop on Chipping Campden High Street.
Unpacking the first of our 80+ removal boxes, I heard the sound of worship music wafting in through the open window on that baking summer evening: it was fantastic, no cheese, just soulful, tuneful, passionate playing and singing coming from the church across the road.
Since then I have met two or three hundred Christians in the Cotswolds: rich, poor, little, large, black, white, young, old, loud, quiet, simple and sophisticated! I have joined a thriving church, got baptised and been asked to lead a worship band. I even hit a six over cow corner for my church's cricket team (before getting out the next ball!)
What a privilege to live now in one of the most beautiful parts of the UK and to walk life's journey of ups and downs, with many others doing just the same, knowing that a living, loving God is with us every step of the way.
3. Joanna Goldie, Moreton-in-MarshGod is alive and well in the Cotswolds! I have seen the church at work in many ways.
One example recently has been the collaboration of two local churches from neighbouring towns in running a money management course designed by Christians Against Poverty. This four-week evening course helps anyone and everyone, no matter how much or little money they have, get financial matters under more control. If attendees do have debt problems, there is further help they can access.
In large and small ways, individually and corporately, Christians from local churches get involved in all kinds of methods of supporting local people.
You probably don't realise how much your local church is vital to the community!
4. John Barton, BroadwayI believe that there are churches that are very much alive and growing in the Cotswolds. Bible believing churches that rely on the Word of God and in Christ Himself.
Sadly I also believe that there are many churches destined to die as people hold on to the traditions of man over the will and Spirit of God.
Trying to balance the two, I will be setting up a mobile tent presence at local countryside shows throughout next year (subject to bookings being available) to show people that we Bible-believing Christians are normal people with an extraordinary God.
We want to meet real people with real problems (or not), just to share the Christ we have a real relationship with. We will be there to listen and share this message of Good News.
Invitations to shows will be most welcomed. We just want to bless people and be there in their environment for them.
5. Maralyn Harvey, PaxfordThe Church in the Cotswolds is most certainly flourishing and it's not just within buildings. Church is reaching out into the local community to show the love of Jesus.
Food Bank, Coffee and Chat mornings for local people and visitors alike, monthly soup lunches on a Saturday are just a few of the ways in which we connect with local people, providing a safe, warm and friendly environment.
Messy Church seeks to engage with local families and a Gospel Choir provides fun and friendship with occasional concerts where filmed stories of God's work in people's everyday lives are shown.
Prayer for the local community is a regular feature, as are Alpha Courses.
Jesus is alive and He so wants to meet with you.