Churches working together have an impact
Lockdown hasn’t prevented churches in Ringwood blessing their community. They have a long track record of community action, which has caught the attention of local businesses
The churches’ commitment to joint working in the town is recognised and hugely appreciated by residents. Recently, a local estate agent put out an advert listing the ‘Top 10 Reasons to Live in Ringwood’ – and included ‘the local churches’ on the list. They frequently receive comments from people noting how special it is to see the churches working together, rather than in competition.
‘The church is really known in the community,’ said Adam Skirton, leader of Poulner Baptist Church. ‘We’re vibrant, we’re relevant, and we want to support and bless people.’
The first community fun day, where they invited local groups to host stalls and gave out copious amounts of free ice cream, hot dogs and burgers, is just one of a series of ways in which the churches have worked together; 5,000 people showed up!
After a few successful fun days, members of the churches felt called to try something new. Different people had different visions of what they felt the churches should be doing – and these visions came together as something they called ‘Love Ringwood.’ They ran a street party, organised a survey where they asked local people ‘What hurts the most?’ and produced a ‘Love Ringwood’ edition of the New Testament.
This featured the results of the survey, with reassuring Bible verses addressing the different concerns people had, pictures that local children had drawn of their favourite Bible stories, a letter from the Queen’s chief clerk and more! In faith, they ordered 6000 copies (pictured, above) – enough for each household in the town to have one – and committed to give them all away in person. On the day of the street party, people were queuing up to receive their copy.
During lockdown, Adam’s church received messages during their online services from people who had never previously attended church in person, who were following along with the readings in their Love Ringwood New Testaments.
To follow on from the distribution of the Love Ringwood New Testaments, the churches recently ordered 7000 copies of ‘HOPE for All’ – HOPE Together’s engaging, easily-readable magazine, full of celebrity stories of faith and powerful testimonies.
Working together, volunteers from churches across Ringwood posted copies through the doors of nearly every house in the town.
‘People love it because it’s so colourful, friendly and modern – people actually read it!’ said Adam. ‘They’re grateful to get it, rather than it just being some tacky old-style church thing that we’re all a bit embarrassed about.’
Adam is passionate about the benefits of churches working together. ‘No one church has all the ability to put on events like fun days or street parties themselves,’ he said. ‘Our effectiveness is multiplied when we work together… I just want to encourage other churches to do what we’ve stumbled across, which is to do what Jesus does – love each other – then people will know that we are his disciples.
'It’s not rocket science, but it takes a bit of hard work and a bit of looking for what we have in common – viewing “different” as a positive – different flavours of the same thing. If there was only one church in the town, it wouldn’t suit everyone’s personalities, so – praise God!
'It’s about having that kingdom mentality.’
Could you reach all the houses in your village, town, or city with a message of hope by working together across churches? The HOPE Shop has copies of the latest HOPE for All magazine in stock now. Visit https://www.hopetogether.org.uk/Shop/