The Benefice Cross of Ampfield, Chilworth and North Baddesely

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What can we learn from church leaders in a more rural area?

Can we learn from mission in deeply rural areas? Revd Paul Seaton-Burn talks about the importance of the land, on shaping mission for context and avoiding managed decline.

As Rector of the Whiddon mission community Revd Paul Seaton Burn leads 10 parishes across a hundred or so square miles of north east Dartmoor. His attention was focused with gentleness on the good things God was doing in the churches in the mission community and on the importance of God’s interest in the land itself.

The Whiddon mission community is home to a small and delicate Christian community. Seaton Burn noted that ‘It always feels that any the wheels can drop off with any new venture in the kingdom (of God)’. This nurturing place has instead grown across all the parishes. Members are bound together by a simple rule of life, daily prayer, and regular meetings with food and prayer.

At Spring Harvest, much of the work Seaton-Burn spoke about was rooted in the idea that the land was holy and indeed a gift from God who declared it good. For his churches that meant valuing the community working with the land and traditions such as beating the bounds, and deliberately engaging in walks and other outdoor events. These activities were places to meet people seeking God, perhaps in quite different ways to the Christian way.

The other striking feature he spoke about and which can be seen in publications the parishes produce was encouraging a profusion of small initiatives, perhaps engaging only three to five people and growing softly from slow beginnings. Seaton-Burn also spoke about the church using ancient (and not so ancient) buildings but not hiding in them.

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