This article was adapted from original text by Sarah Lacey, parisioner at St Giles, Hartington.
St Giles’ Church sits dreaming quietly in the beautiful village of Hartington, and has done so since around 1250 AD.
This is not to say that it hasn't had some lively moments, I'm sure it has, but none in my time of some 20 years as a resident.
How we have prayed for a change to come, for the Holy Spirit to take notice and 'do' something, anything even, to create life, energy and purpose for God within and without this slumbering church.
Guess what? Something has gradually been changing over the last few years, new shoots have sprouted in the form of new church goers moving into the village.
In each we see gifts put to willing use in the service of God, through the Spirit - it's exciting!
There is a problem, (isn't there always?!), we don't have a vicar, we are in 'vacancy', and have been for some time.
In fact, for me, it is the fourth time of being without the person in a dog collar, the visible presence of God's servant within the community that everyone wants to see and take tea with.
Does it matter? Yes, of course it does, but you can, we have learnt over the years, manage very well if you have someone to share the load with, and this time there is a team of ‘someones’ who are willing and able to step up and become a committed group of lay people, prepared to help and enable us to grow.
As Paul said in his letter to the Romans (12:6): ‘We have gifts that differ according to the grace given us.’
The team committed to offering a regular time of worship on a Sunday.
Between us we deliver two family type services every month, and we plague other vicars and retired clergy (PTOs) to undertake the other two Sundays, one to offer Holy Communion, which recharges our spiritual batteries beautifully, the other to bring some variety and friendly support, for which we say a big ‘thank you’ to the priest concerned.
Mission Action Plan
We dug out our 2011 version of MAP (Mission Action Plan) and updated it with realistic challenges and plans, having first canvassed as many people as possible for their opinions, which we listened to.
We established a rota, we bulked up our PCC with some new blood and we established a pastoral team.
The pandemic has shown on numerous occasions how important regular outreach is, especially in our rural farming community.
There is a great deal of isolation and loneliness, masked by pride and the words, 'I don't want to be a nuisance / burden / trouble to anyone,' if we do but take time to be that good neighbour Jesus calls us to be and take notice.
We held a thoroughly enjoyable Rogation service last month, 40 people joined us on our 'worship walkabout’, and the farmer, at whose farm we stopped to read scripture and pray, is still talking about it... in a good way!
We are creating a 'Walk of Words' around our church yard, an idea first developed at St Oswald’s, Ashbourne, which we are gratefully adapting as something creative for the many visitors that come to the village, to read and perhaps encounter Christ, as they do so, alongside the many wildflowers and far-reaching views that our church yard offers them.
A pilgrim church
St Giles is a pilgrim church, on the pilgrim way from Ilam to Eyam, many people pre-pandemic, visited the church to get their little books stamped, we always welcomed them and look forward to doing so again soon.
It seems wrong not to have the door to God’s house open every day, as was our custom, but that is how it is just now. Strange times!
However, we are not wasting time, there is much to do, a new heating system for one thing, followed by a kitchen (we are known for our cakes after services with a cup of 'proper' coffee and lots of chat, which we miss very much!) and loos must happen, they really must.
The essential people - and their skills!
This leads neatly on to the essential people we are blessed to have, those who are good with money, our treasurer is one, every PCC needs one of those!
Other skills recently discovered include, skilled engineers, singers, readers, fundraisers, trained safeguarding officer, artists and multi-taskers and planners - one of whom supplied this quote when asked where they see God at work: 'Right here - encouraging and building up our Church family, both in numbers and faith, so that we can serve the community that we are in, being both light and salt.'
Another: 'By showing God’s love in action we are building new confidence in God.'
We want to be good listeners, who are rooted within the community, visible and active, carrying out jobs for God, with love, humour and compassion.
None of these require a vicar, but it will be good to have one somewhere, sometime soon, please God, to teach, nourish, support and lead us, someone to share things with, someone we can grow with, oh, and someone who can take the weddings and baptisms, because much as we would like to, we are not allowed to!
We have learnt to think outside our boxes, to listen to others, to try to create a sense of belonging within our growing congregation, to believe that if God wants us to do something He will show us how, and He does, thank you Lord.
Our story continues...
Learn more about St Giles Hartington at: www.hartingtonchurch.org