A community restored to life by young families, growing in God’s love

The worshipping community of a south Leicestershire benefice has been restored to life by young families growing in God’s love.

When the Revd Kim Ford moved to Great Glen four years ago, it was a ‘struggling’ community. There were worshiping Christians living in the village – they just weren’t all worshiping at St Cuthbert’s Church and its neighbouring churches in Burton Overy and Carlton Curlieu.

With new houses being built in the area, many young families were making their home in the village but travelling miles across the Diocese for their spiritual needs.

Some came with their babies to the established toddler group at St Cuthbert’s, but that soon became difficult to manage when mothers went back to work. So the Toddler Café was launched on a Wednesday, with parents, as well as little ones, in mind.

“We started by having half an hour bible study and prayer, followed by the toddler group, but we found this worship very hard with the children,” explains Kim.

“It became very apparent Christian parents wanted a space where we could pray together for our village, so we began having prayer meetings every couple of months.”

The meetings drew in more than 50 Christians from Great Glen and the surrounding villages.

“We sought to ask the Lord what He wanted to happen and He started giving us pictures and words,” says Kim.

One of the verses was: ‘for such a time is this…’

“We realised it didn’t matter what church we belonged to, what mattered was seeing God’s kingdom being established in our village,” says Kim.

“There had been prayer in this space since the 8th century, but there had been a cover on the well, stopping it from flowing into the village. We saw a picture of the Lord blowing off that cover and the water flowing, bringing new life into the village.”

Kim felt God was challenging them to open their doors in a new way. So a year ago, they changed the timing of their Sunday morning services and sandwiched in a 9.15am, which is less formal and explores new ways of loving our Lord.

“I had it in my heart. I could see where this journey must start and it was for something more evangelical in nature,” explains Kim. “We prayed, started searching for resources and God sent us Jo and John who have become our worship leaders.”

God has also gifted St Cuthbert’s with a pioneer ordinand, Sarah Collins, and parishioner, Linda Harwood, who felt God calling her to be a children and families worker.

“Through this our small congregation has started to grow. We now have several young families and a lovely big group of children.”

It’s a leap of faith for Linda, who has put aside her 37-year nursing career to become a student and undertake a full-time degree in contextual ministry and practical theology.

“For quite a while I was asking God, ‘what should I be doing?’,” explains Linda. “He just said, ‘consolidate, trust and wait,’ – which was quite hard!”

Linda had been a member of the Baptist church in Oadby for more than 30 years when she remarried and moved to Great Glen in 2011. It wasn’t until a couple of years ago, when she went to New Wine, that she felt God questioning why she still hadn’t become part of her new community.

That was when she met Kim and asked if there was any way she could help.
“Kim was very cool about it all (though screaming with delight inside),” says Linda. “She suggested I came along to the two toddler groups, so I did – and I loved it.”

Linda is a natural with the children, leading everything from the craft to the singing, guitar playing and all.

“I just feel a tremendous peace that this is the right thing to do. Everyone I know has encouraged and supported me, and I’ve found that really affirming.

“The hope when I graduate is that I can continue and evolve my work here. I shall be getting to know the children in the benefice better through school assemblies and I’m hoping to start a children’s group in Burton Overy – plans are afoot!”

Local mother, Sarah, has been coming to St Cuthbert’s with her daughter for three years. They love the relaxed, friendly atmosphere at the Wednesday morning Toddler Café.

“We were already Christians, living in the village but going to another church that we loved,” says Sarah. “Because it wasn’t local and we were a young family, we were finding it increasingly harder to get there each week.

“We started to build a relationship with Kim, we came to the Mothers’ Day service, and were made to feel very welcome. I just felt this overwhelming sense that the village really needed its young families to support the church. Others felt the same.

“We realised Great Glen was full of Christians who didn’t actually worship locally. It was only natural to want to make Christian friends here and we needed something that provided children’s work alongside it.”

The 9.15am Sunday service is a modern music, band style form of worship. “It’s a small service, we all know each other so well – we feel like a Christian family,” says Sarah. “Our job is to build on that now.”

Another mother, Danni, has children aged three and four years, and is very happy with the way worship has evolved at St Cuthbert’s. ”It’s very relaxed, we don’t feel we have to rein the children in,” she explains. “When I first came to St Cuthbert’s, before the 9.15 began, that feeling was very different. I spent the whole service feeling self-conscious, and it put me off coming. I carried on going to St John’s in Clarendon Park for about a year.

“The new service has been really successful. It’s allowed young families in the village to get to know one another socially and for our children to make other Christian friends who they will go to school with.”

St Cuthbert’s has grown into a community with people willing to help each other and be there for one another.

The village had been described as a ‘dark place’ but now it now feels light and a place of growth both physically and spiritually.

The benefice has challenges ahead. They are looking to build a Sunday school room as the children are outgrowing the small room in the Vicarage and as with many of our older churches, there is no room in the church to build or extend.

Spiritually, they are starting their first house group with space to explore God’s word and pray together.

Pioneer ordinand, Sarah Collins, has also launched ‘A Place of Welcome’ in the village youth centre for people of all ages who might otherwise be on their own.

“We want to be a place where people can belong and come to know the love of God in their lives,” says Kim. “We are not perfect; we’re not always getting it right, but I can see we are heading in the right direction with an open heart to try, at times to succeed and sometimes fail.”

St Cuthberts also ran a harvest arts festival for families in 2018, funded by the Growth Fund. To read more about how the Growth Fund helps our churches,   click here.


First published on: 5th August 2019

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