We often think about how best to use our church buildings; but how about putting some thought into how we use the outside spaces that surround them?
Covid restrictions and trying to be Covid-responsible led to churches in one of our parishes coming up with new and engaging ways to use their outside space for mission in their community.
St Nicholas and St Hugh, in the Parish of the Transfiguration, Little Bowden, have made the most of their outside space in some of the most difficult times during the last two years.
The parish has held outdoor services, put up Easter and Christmas story boards and trails, sewn seeds at Messy Church and brought smiles to people’s faces as they yarn bombed the churchyards and engaged with their community in new and encouraging ways.
This Christmas was no exception. More than 100 people came to ‘Light a Candle’, thinking of those who would be missed during the festive period, with candles lit in church or left in jars in the churchyard.
Another first was ‘Carols on the Green’, with more than 200 people coming together to sing out the Good News, led by Harborough Band, the carols interspersed with the nativity story.
Both events were well managed and socially distanced to allow people to join in safely with the sadness and joy of this Christmas time.
And to round off the year 2021, the parish received news that both St Nicholas and St Hugh have been awarded A Rocha Eco Church bronze status.
Reverend Alison Iliffe, Team Vicar of St Nicholas and St Hugh, says that the joy of lockdown for them, as a parish, is that they have rediscovered how blessed they are with the outdoor spaces round their churches and have used that blessing to bless and engage with the community, especially in these restricted times.
She explains: “The benches became places to meet and talk with others who were using the well-worn paths through St Nicholas’ Churchyard, or as they followed the trails and activities. Holding services in the open allowed people to stop and become part of our worship in an easy way.
“Having something to invite our local playgroups, Scout groups and Little Bowden School to use has created a new identity for us as a parish and we now feel more involved in the wider community.”
Reflecting on this further, Alison says: “Perhaps the most significant meeting place for me was as I sat with others in St Nicholas church on Good Friday for an hour of quiet before the cross, with the doors open, and we could hear the excitement of families searching for the next clue in our Easter Trail.
“Our open doors and outdoor spaces have generated a new way to build relationships and shown us the importance of using all of our space imaginatively in new and creative ways to bring the Good News of Jesus out of the building to be freely available to all who come and see.”