Suffolk churches in the community

Suffolk Church, picture by Phil Morley

Suffolk Church, picture by Phil Morley - Credit: Archant

Suffolk’s churches are getting out and about into the communities which they serve. And pioneer ministry is making a difference to people’s lives. JAMES MARSTON reports.

For Diane Grano church is all about getting out and about into the community.

She said: “Church isn’t just a building the people go to on a Sunday for an hour. Church is about our relationship with God and with each other and with the community.”

Diane, works as a pioneer mission enabler at St Christopher’s church in the west Suffolk village of Red Lodge.

She said: “It is my job to encourage discipleship among the congregation to be mission focused and integrated within the community.

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“The second part of my job is to encourage community leaders to work with the church and help create a community that is healthy and vibrant.”

As we get out an about in the village, Diane speaks about her drive to engage with people where they are in the community.

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“Right now, in many rural communities, I believe the church can bring people together and provide a focus for the community and families. We don’t wait for people to come to church, as the church we expect the church to go out and do church where the communities are, and support each other in all the things that we do.”

Diane said an example of this is how the church in Red Lodge works with the Parish Council, offering time and resources, for various community events.

Diane said: “I work with a team of volunteers, we meet and pray and work out what needs to be done. It is the church going out in to the community and forging those relationships.”

At St Christopher’s Church of England Primary School, Diane is well known by pupils and teachers alike.

Headteacher Caroline James said that by coming into the school, and using the school for some church activities creates a relationship which benefits pupils, families and the whole school community.

She said: “Having the church as a partner enables the school to develop its own distinct Christian identity and its spirituality. This shines through as the children benefit from a deepening community spirit. Our engagement with the church and wider community is something we take very seriously.”

At the village’s millennium centre, manager Sarah Bell is among those who Diane has got to know.

Sarah said: “It has been fabulous to have the input from Diane and the church. We get together an think about what the community might need. We have really developed the community and got to know people in new ways.”

Richard Saul, Millennium Centre caretaker, is a volunteer with the church youth group – Wired – that meets at the centre.

He said: “The project provides a great opportunity for youngsters, they are easily distracted and drawn away into other things these days but they have kept coming, we are hoping to grow and develop the group.”

For Diane bringing people together is part and parcel of her faith as a Christian. She said: “I have come out of poverty and was raised in an orphanage. I was a school drop out. I do what I do because of God’s transforming love.”

Rev Canon Sally Gaze, dean of rural mission consultancy for the Diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, said Diane’s work is echoed by volunteer pioneer ministers across the county.

She said: “People can enjoy church in the traditional way and in this pioneering way, it is both/and not either or. My job is to help train pioneers like Diane and support and encourage them in their ministry as well as work with the bishops to think about mission in the rural contexts. There are many different types of issues facing rural churches and communities in Suffolk, but often there is less social capital than in the past – fewer schools, fewer shops, fewer pubs, and often the church building is the last amenity left. I think church communities have a big role to play in combating isolation and improving social and community cohesion. This sort of reaching out you see in Red Lodge is increasingly happening through church communities across Suffolk, we are simply sharing the love of God.”

St Christopher’s Church in Red Lodge – In profile

-St Christopher’s is a Local Ecumenical Partnership of the Methodist and Anglican Church of England.

-Early 50’s, Red Lodge was a small village rarely accessed except for the trucks that regularly stopped off at the truck stop on Turnpike Road. A small Christian community started a fellowship in a vacant garage where they worshiped together.

-In 1958 a church sanctuary was built on Boundary Road by the Methodist Church, where the church building is today.

.-Since 2010, Red Lodge has gradually grown into a community with many young families settling in.

-St Christopher’s CofE Primary School was built in September 2012 to accommodate the many young children living in Red Lodge.

St Christopher’s has grown into a young and vibrant Christian community actively involved in the local community.


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