Reepham & Wensum Valley Team Churches - at the Heart of the Community

Rev’d Richard’s Letter (October 2022)

Last month, Reverend Helen reflected on a book that clergy throughout the diocese were given about village churches thriving. One of the sections in the book was on welcoming more people into our churches, and I thought I would reflect on that this month.

The book commented on how many of us in the church worry that our congregations don’t reflect our communities. This got me thinking. Over the summer, I volunteered on a Scripture Union beach mission. Scripture Union is currently trying to reach the 95% of children who are ‘outside’ the church. Both this aim and the book’s comments made me wonder whether we worry because we look at things from a particular view. Perhaps it is simply that our Sunday congregations don’t always reflect the community in which the church is placed.

Actually, when we think of all the people who have contact with the church in some form, we can be more hopeful. Many people have contact with the church through fetes and coffee mornings, groups for the isolated, the chance to ring bells, communion for the housebound, or simply visiting in the quiet of the day. Our churches see numerous baptisms, weddings and funerals every year, and these services bring many people into contact with our churches.

Children are no exception to this extended network of contact with the church. Each of the schools in our benefice is regularly in contact with the church in some form, not just the Church schools. And we are observing that it is the children who are more comfortable in the church buildings than the adults are. We hope to build on this positive contact over the coming months.

So our Sunday congregations might not always be representative of the communities they are in, but the people that we welcome and have contact with are spread more widely. And we hope and pray that seeds are sown that might one day bear fruit. But Jesus also demonstrated a different kind of hospitality: he didn’t just welcome people into his presence, he went and shared hospitality with people where they were. Perhaps those readers who don’t come to church might consider what it is
they would like to share with their local church? Is there something you feel we could do together? Is there something we could help one another with? Our churches are part of the community, and the welcome we show and receive should be for all.