An inspired community project engages children and families

22nd May 2024

The church communities of St Mary’s Westonzoyland and St Mary’s Chedzoy have come together to share ministry and to pray together for growth in their church. The Revd Jane Sutton shared with us how they felt God was at work in their community this Easter.

“We are two churches on the Somerset Levels – St Mary’s Westonzoyland and St Mary’s Chedzoy. Westonzoyland is famous for the Battle of Sedgemoor and has a Visitor Centre dedicated to the last battle fought on English soil. Though the two communities supported different sides in the past, they’ve grown to love each other while keeping their own unique identities.

Like many rural churches, we’ve struggled to attract children and young families, and we felt God calling us to find a way to engage with them. We have a lay/clergy team ministry at both churches, so everyone has a voice and prays for God to reveal His purpose for us. Westonzoyland has its own school, and while we’ve been taking assembly once a month, we hadn’t yet managed to draw the younger generation into the church. 

Celia, our organist discovered the #kindnessrocks project. Inspired by the project and with Lent approaching, Celia started collecting rocks and pebbles and painting them with messages of kindness. She was unstoppable, placing the rocks around the village and posting on social media to explain their significance.

The community really engaged with the project, understanding that if they found a rock, they could keep it, re-hid it, or give it to someone else as a gesture of kindness. Soon, there were rocks everywhere, in nooks and crannies outside and inside the church.

As a church community we felt inspired to listen to the Lord and decided to offer an Easter Saturday craft workshop. Tables set up with all sorts of activities. There were cakes and biscuits, hot and cold drinks for everyone. Barney the Bear (AKA Ann the Reader) stood outside the church waving at everyone. 

People started to pour in. We counted around 50 children and 30 parents. People left asking if they could do it again, so plans are starting for another workshop in early July, based on the beauty and diversity of Creation and how we can look after God’s precious world.

It was a busy week for the team. Before the events on Saturday they hosted Westonzoyland Primary School at church on Maundy Thursday to hear the Easter story in words and songs. Everyone left with a palm cross, knowing that all those crosses were going to homes across Westonzoyland was a wonderful thought.

We will continue to pray and to listen to God’s responses for us. We will begin to look for funding to bring facilities to St Mary’s Chedzoy and to forge better links with the school in Bawdrip, attended by 20 local children.

We have learned so much over this past year about shared team ministry, about being united in our love for Jesus and most of all about the power of prayer. We are so thankful that our churches are growing and we are filled with excitement about the future."

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