Bucking the trend: Growth and Community Engagement at St Marys Church continues

Published on: 17th January 2024

Bible open in front of a fire with soft focus people sat in background in deck chairs drinking coffee

At St Mary's Church in Welsh Newton, the congregation has seen inspiring transformation taking place as the small rural church has seen numerical and spiritual growth in the church community. Since January 2023, attendance has doubled and the church is now welcoming children as part of Sunday worship and looking forward to one new member preparing for baptism.

Patricia Carswell reflected on the journey, "We are so grateful for the way God has been moving at St Mary's. We believe that the most important thing we have done as a church over the last year is commit to prayer, and God is (unsurprisingly) faithful in answering prayer."

The commitment to prayer is evident through monthly prayer services and a dedicated WhatsApp group sharing prayer requests.

A highlight was the Holy Week 24-hour prayer vigil and a further day-long one in Advent; plans are now underway for another 24-hour prayer vigil this year.

The changes at St Mary's have been steady and have included different forms of worship, such as a twice-monthly Christian meditation session followed by breakfast and Bible study. The inclusive nature of these activities has attracted more people, with some who initially attended only one element now engaging with the entire range of activities and other church services.

Outdoor initiatives have proven immensely popular, especially a monthly breakfast and Bible study held outdoors. This allows children to easily join in and enjoy activities while learning about God - from stained glass windows made with leaves to sheep cupcakes with marshmallows; the relaxed approach offers families an easy welcome to church life. "While the children do activities, the adults engage in Bible study and discussions around the fire pit. We all gather together to pray at the end, creating a sense of community", explains Patricia. 

She goes on to add: "In October, we held our first Spiritual Question Time, attended and led by Bishop Richard and Dean Sarah - this was such a success that we started a spiritual discussion group, this is now attended by Christians, atheists, agnostics and Muslims." 

The church's commitment to outreach is demonstrated through its informal food bank, accessible 24/7, allowing individuals to obtain necessities anonymously without registration.

She summarises: "Our vicar, Revd Ben, has played a crucial role in supporting these initiatives. We are very grateful he is letting us experiment with different ideas and forms of service and is always supportive and happy to let us try new things."

This inclusive approach underscores a commitment to spiritual growth and community engagement. It provides a welcoming space for all, perhaps inspiring other small churches to consider new things as part of the diocesan Year of Faith. 

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