EVEN though the Church has long been regarded as a pillar of the community, it, too, needs to move with the times to take account changes to society and demographics. Traditional services – and ‘Sunday school’ for youngsters – is no longer sustainable.
Like the Post Office, library, pub, shop, bank and other institutions which can no longer be taken for granted, religious leaders do need to be more imaginative if they’re to attract a new generation of worshippers, and much does depend on the personalities of the clergy.
Yet, given church buildings are, by their very historic nature, at the heart of local communities that they serve, and accessible to all, more can certainly be made of these fine buildings and, in particular, the example of Reverend Richard Parkinson, the rector of St Michael’s Church in Cherry Burton near Beverley.
Recognising that his church’s youth club could not compete with the local primary school for the attention of the young, it has, instead, restored their belief in humanity by opening a community cafe and putting itself at the forefront of efforts to combat loneliness amongst older members of society.
As well as helping those concerned to retain their independence in a community where people can be cut off if they don’t have access a car, it shows what is possible where there is a will. St Michael’s Church is not alone, but it is emblematic of all those churches – and vicars – who recognise that their pastoral work, and mission, has never been more important in a society where people can lose faith because they don’t know who to turn to for support and guidance.