South Norfolk churches are stronger together
For over ten years the churches in Poringland and Framingham Earl, just south of Norwich, have enjoyed a "light touch" formal relationship. Kevin Gotts reports.
Under the banner of "Churches Together" the Anglican, Methodist, Roman Catholic and Free Churches have pooled together a number of resources and concentrated on what they have in common to help build the Kingdom of God.
Anglican Rector Robert Parsonage explains: "Together we are greater than the sum of our parts, pooling resources makes sense, especially in a rural setting."
Besides activities including shared services, luncheon club, Good Friday processions, Harvest lunch and a joint Christmas Card sent to some 2,500 homes, perhaps the biggest impact has been on working with children and young people. With the comprehensive support of Norwich Youth for Christ, the Churches Together are funding youth worker Pete Tyson for 20 hours a week.
"While it has been a challenge and struggle to meet costs, God has been faithful. The youth work also helps glue our Churches Together relationship," adds Robert.
More recently the "New Day" conference, a gathering of some 6,000 youth from across the UK and overseas, converges at the Royal Norfolk Showground. Here the Churches Together financially and practically invite and support 50 young people to be involved in the two parishes.
Over the years activities have included car washing, litter picking, visiting a nursing home and this year carrying out the "Who Cares" survey. "This impacts our community and we believe gives a positive view of young people motivated by their faith," says Robert.
Youth Worker Pete Tyson said of his work in this community: "It's a privilege to be part of such a strong ecumenical group which is joined together by its passion for sharing Jesus with young people. 4D Youth Project has been running for about 10 years and there have been three youth workers in that time, each building on what had been achieved by the previous leader.
"I get really excited by being able to share faith with young people. What's even more exciting is that I get to do it with a varied mix of brothers and sisters from very different churches and expressions of Christianity.
"All of us coming together with our range of gifts, talents and experiences mean that the young people we serve get an excellent and enriching service. Everything we do is underpinned by love and our calling to share the Good News with young people. My job is the best job in the world!"
Robert is the longest serving minister in the churches together group, since his installation in 2001, and he has found that the newer leaders from the other churches share enthusiasm and commitment, enjoy the fraternity and learn from each other.
Robert concludes: "We are a diverse group with a love for each other where we choose to focus on our love for Jesus Christ and building up the Kingdom of God. In some ways we are like a "fresh expression" of church, in that we are trying to make ourselves relevant to the 21st century, and this makes sense to a lot of people outside the church."
Pictured above is a Churches Together gathering in Poringland.