For this week’s film in our year long campaign to tell the story of our rich and varied life here in the Diocese of Leeds, we followed the Church About the Dale ecumenical trailer taking welfare and worship to some of the further reaches of our diocese.
It is this vision of welfare and worship that saw the Anglican churches in the Deanery of Wensley and the local Methodist chapels come together to source, fund and plan to get the trailer on the road back in 2013/4.
A report around this time from Ripon Cathedral spelled out quite clearly that social issues such as loneliness and isolation were problems for rural communities because of cuts to services such as buses, libraries, and post offices — made worse by a lack of internet access - leaving the communities with only the very basic of services.
It was something of which church leaders across the Deanery of Wensleydale were well aware.
The Rector of Bedale and Leeming and Thornton Watlass, the Revd Ian Robinson, said: “We wanted to be able to demonstrate the ways in which the Church is not only relevant, but also active in people’s lives and in providing support.
And the trailer was one way to do that.
He said: “The trailer could be used as a space for conversation, or a place for prayer. It has seating, refreshments, and space for displays and leaflets.”
It took 18 months for their vision to become a reality – and in August 2015 it was launched with a service of blessing from Ripon Cathedral before making its own pilgrimage through Wensleydale providing active support to isolated areas of the Dale and proclaiming the Good News.
The Area Dean of Wensley, the Revd Michael Hepper, said: “With the trailer, we can take the services out into the field, and provide local advice and referral. Congregations feel under threat of closure; so the encouragement of the trailer will help them recognise that they are part of something lively and growing.”
Since that time it has been a regular feature at local Agricultural shows including the Gargrave Show and the Wensleydale Show, it can be found in market places, it was at Pentecost Praise in the Park at Bedale and in market places – earlier this year it secured permission to be a regular feature at Leyburn’s Friday market (volunteers wanted see below if you can help!!).
And at August Bank Holiday, Church About the Dale is a presence and provides a backdrop for a special lakeside service by the side of Semerwater - an old tradition in the Dale. Though this year it sadly won't be there due to being double-booked!
The Revd Chris Lawton, Priest in Charge, Crakehall; Hornby; Patrick Brompton with Hunton; Spennithorne with Finghall and Hauxwell, said: “We wanted to reach out to people, and to those in need in these isolated rural communities by taking the trailer out into the market palces, onto the showfields and have on board information to signpost them to food banks, debt relief, farm crisis, suicide prevention helplines.
"Helping those most in need and proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ,” he added.
IF YOU CAN GIVE YOUR TIME TO HELP WITH THE CHURCH ABOUT THE DALE AT THE FRIDAY LEYBURN MARKET PLEASE GET IN TOUCH WITH CHRIS on rdclawton [at] gmail.com