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Rural ministry and relationships across our diocese praised at special service

First published on: 13th May 2024

More than 400 people celebrated all things bright and rural at Ripon Cathedral in a special service as part of our diocese’s 10th anniversary year.

The “Rivers of Life” service focussed on the significance of a decade of rural life and Christian ministry, with guests representing key areas including farming, tourism and conservation.

The event was part of the 10th anniversary year since the creation of one of the largest dioceses in the Church of England, the Diocese of Leeds.

The service was hosted by Dean John Dobson and the Rt Revd Anna Eltringham, Bishop of Ripon. In welcoming those present they said: “Like the streams and rivers that flow freely and generously in the Dales and elsewhere, God’s generous Spirit is seen to bring life, fellowship and hope in all circumstances.”

In his sermon, Dean John joked that though visitors to Yorkshire may have the impression it’s perfect - people in rural communities and churches know only too well the challenges that exist. He praised the resilience of so many, calling on people to have confidence in the God who pours out his spirit to sustain life and draw people together in unity.

Marking the range of deep relationships between the church and rural communities, Bishop Anna said: “The spirit of community is not in buildings, but in faithful people who want to care for neighbours, friends and those who visit.  Churches, clergy and congregations in particular, of which I am so very proud, sustain a Christian presence in our communities large and small and must also be celebrated today as these are often the last focal point still standing filling in the gaps for what has gone before. 

“I am so proud and grateful for the meeting places your churches provide for all ages through their worship and social events such as coffee mornings and pop up beer festivals.  For the libraries and post-offices they house.  For the food pantries they offer.  For the cinemas, exhibitions, concerts and theatre they provide.  And the space given for local children to meet in the form of toddler groups, holiday clubs, Sunday Schools and youth groups.  

“But finally let’s remember the difficult times in communities – when folk are unwell, harassed or anxious, feeling helpless, lost or grieving.  This is where churches can really come into their own and working with the Good Shepherd Jesus, listen, talk and help through their actions and to heal, comfort, bring some peace and offer love and compassion through the body of Christ - the church family, to all. “

The service was attended by the Deputy Lord Lieutenants of both North and West Yorkshire, Mr Simon Theakston and Mr C Richard Jackson MBE, representing His Majesty the King.

The Boys’ Choir, lay clerks and choral scholars of the cathedral were delighted to be joined by the Chapel Choir of Hall School, London.

Dean John concluded: “It was wonderful to see 400 people gather in Ripon Cathedral to mark the tenth anniversary of the diocese by celebrating the way in which God is working in and through rural churches and communities, bringing people together in responding to challenges and serving the common good.“


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