New Figures Reveal Church Plays Major Role in Countryside

The Church of England is playing a vital role in all aspects of rural community life, the findings of a recent survey by the Diocese of Hereford has shown.

|TOP|The vital role played by the Church in the countryside has been confirmed by the results of a recent survey conducted by the Diocese of Hereford.

The Diocese of Hereford is the most rural diocese in the Church of England. According to the survey, the Church was considered to be an important partner in social and cultural life in 85 per cent of the communities in the geographical area covered by the diocese.

“With fewer than three hundred thousand people in an area of 1660 square miles, the Church’s role is very significant though we doubt this is recognised by government at any level,” said Nick Read, Agricultural Chaplain for the Diocese and one of the four member team which compiled the report. “The survey also showed up the church’s close link with the land and the people who live and work this land.”

The particularly rural focus of many of the church services and events also reveals the deep connection between the Church and the rural community it serves, with 85 per cent of local churches holding Harvest Festival Services.

Rogation or ‘beating the bounds’ services were also held by 78 per cent of churches in the Hereford Diocese, with a quarter of parishes holding special services and events to mark Plough Sunday. In stark comparison, just under half of all churches in the area held carol services.

|AD|“It’s not just Sunday services; the church provides a range of activities for all ages, from Mother and Toddler Clubs to women’s groups and men’s groups, bible study to bell ringing and a lot more besides,” said Read. “Nearly two thousand people are involved in musical activity, in choirs, music groups or ringing the bells.

The survey also revealed a strong relationship between the Church and local organisations and events.

“Just as important was that the survey showed our involvement with other organisations and events such as local drama festivals, Three Choirs Festival and Caring for God’s Acre,” added Read.

“More than 40 per cent of our parishes are involved in the Governing Body of their local school, 15 per cent are involved in parish and town councils, a further 27 per cent of parishes are participating in Parish Plans and more than one in three are represented on local charities.”

“I am sure the contribution made by our churches is constantly underestimated,” said the Bishop of Hereford, Anthony Priddis. “We now have the figures to show the strength of what we do and the importance of that contribution to everybody’s life, not just church goers.”

The survey was undertaken to demonstrate how well the Vision Statement for the Diocese of Hereford, which seeks to share God’s love in community and world, was being realised throughout the area by the diocese’s churches. It was conducted over two months in 2005.

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