If size is our measure then today’s church was almost off the scale … arriving in Barnard Castle I found the Anglican, Methodist and Roman Catholic Churches well before I found the United Reformed Church, which was tucked away in a side street in the town – a legacy from the time when sites available to non-established churches were restricted. Once there, I led worship with members of the three churches that make up the Two Dales Pastorate gathered for one of their joint services.
I also saw some chapters from the amazing Knitted Bible – lent to Barnard
Castle URC by St Georges URC, Hartlepool and being used to encourage people to visit the church. Lots of work had gone into this, both in terms of thought and practical skills – how creative we can be in interpreting God’s story in ways which will reach other people!
In the afternoon Julie Martin, the minister, accompanied me on a tour of the other churches of the Pastorate. On single track roads, round hairpin bends, often seemingly on the vertical, and avoiding the sheep and pheasants, I enjoyed the beautiful scenery and heard something of the joys and difficulties of ministry in such an environment.
And so to Keld, where there is a vision for developing the buildings. I saw inside the church, was pleased to see inside the newly refurbished manse (now a high quality holiday cottage) and heard how work on a resource centre was about to begin. More information is available on www.gmb.orpheusweb.co.uk
Each small community along the Dale has a church – one denomination providing a strong Christian presence in each place. The result is that there is shared ecumenical responsibility. Surely these situations have much to teach us about how we are church in our different ways in our different situations? Each demonstrated a church being church in its own way, in its rural setting reaching out, as appropriate, to its community.