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Great Houghton: Encouraging signs of new growth in smaller congregations

Great Houghton

A beautiful church dating back to 1650 is starting to see some promising signs of new growth in the Diocese of Sheffield, with more weekly initiatives in place to help encourage people to worship there.

Based in a former mining village, the Church of St Michael and All Angels in Great Houghton originally had in place a congregation of around ten people attending one church communion service at 9am every other week and a knit and natter group on a Tuesday.

The Curate for St Michael’s, the Revd Christine Moorey (who is also Curate at Christ Church Ardsley and All Saints Darfield), was keen to show to people that the church is still very much an open presence in the area and helped to put on a set of activities that people could access if they had never been to church before.

‘Mindful Monday’ sessions started around May last year from 6-7pm, including candlelit music to help provide a peaceful space for any passers-by. Using resources funded by the Small Sparks Grant, blackboards and chalk paints were purchased and placed on the pavements outside the church to help advertise the evenings. This event led to ‘Tea and Cake Tuesday’, which took place weekly during school holidays. This provided tea and cake inside the church and outside in the garden, helping to fulfil a public need due to the lack of a coffee shop in the local area.

Café Church started up in September once a month on Saturday afternoons, followed by brunch services on the fifth Sunday of each month. The momentum generated from each new event has helped to see new couples and individuals attending different services, alongside the fortnightly Sunday morning services.

Christine says:

“We’ve tried to work in conjunction with other things, so the Small Sparks Grant was part of a bigger part of the jigsaw puzzle, if you like. I’m on the Ward Alliance within Barnsley as a community representative, and that’s been a great opportunity to offer the church as a space for the community.

“They were kind enough to provide funding to help some Christmas activities and the parish council now want to use the church rooms when their venue is having some building work carried out. We’ve also been going into the school as well to do the Bible Society’s ‘Open the Book’ assemblies, which has been a wonderful way for the church to support the school’

“I’d really like to encourage people who are thinking of starting something similar. There were only a couple of us on the team who were able to get these things going, but slowly and surely we’re getting a small team together to carry on with this work. You don’t need a big congregation and a big volunteer team to kickstart things growing. We’re steadily seeing growth – not just church growth but growth within the community to serve and to support it and we pray this will continue”.

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