Community support vital for church sustainability

First published 16th November 2022

The tiny village of Littleton Drew, north-west of Chippenham, is a great example of how active engagement with the wider community offers the Church a lifeline.
The Wiltshire hamlet is home to just 44 houses and a population of approximately 100.

All Saints’ church, part of the Bybrook Benefice, has one service a month and has only welcomed two weddings in the last 20 years.
“It is a sad fact that without the support of the community in our village, the church is not sustainable,” says churchwarden Caroline Cook. “The income from the traditional congregation is dwindling and doesn’t pay the current costs. Consequently, we’ve had to engage with the community for our very survival,” she says.
Fifteen years ago, the church came very close to closing. “Since then we have worked really hard to create strong community connections,” says Caroline. “The wider community have become actively involved in churchyard maintenance, cleaning and flowers, Harvest and other suppers and community fundraising events such as Auctions of Promises, quizzes, and the like.”
“This is where the God steps in,” she says. “As folks become more engaged with looking after the church and being part of a community around it, they much more willingly provide financial support. Some have started to come to services and to faith.”
All Saints’ now receive regular donations from a variety of villagers, most of whom are not church-goers, which supplements the collections it receive from services.
The recent Bells project was a good example of how community engagement not only raises funds but also builds faith and drives mission.
Local people felt invested in the project and contributed specifically to it, raising over ten percent of what was needed. The remaining funding was secured through grants from bellringing charities and generous donations from families of deceased bellringers.
“Now we have folks involved in training to ring the bells who were not regular churchgoers and also have a new, albeit limited, income stream from visiting bellringers,” says the churchwarden. “The whole village is engaged in hearing and enjoying the bells and unconsciously being reminded that a living, breathing, worshipping community exists in their midst.”

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