Peak Park Rural Development Enabler

A new project was established at the beginning of 2013 to run initially for 5 years.  This is a unique project not only because it’s a cooperative venture between three local Districts (Sheffield, Manchester & Stockport, and Nottingham & Derby) but because it’s centred on a National Park.

Its purpose is to enable the growth of Christian Presence in the Peak District National Park, and in the wider area of the Peak District, by specifically engaging with rural issues.  This also makes it unique.  The project is intentionally ecumenical; the Anglican Diocese of Derby and the United Reformed Church (East Midlands Synod) are partners, as are five other Anglican Diocese that encroach on the Park.  The project is open to any denominations and Christian groups in the area.

The purpose of the project is to enable local churches and chapels to become more informed about the issues that face people in the National Park and to find ways of bringing Christian care and concern to bear on those issues in practical ways.

There are many wonderful examples throughout the country of local projects of which churches and chapels are an integral part.  Many of these project are based inside our buildings and are community led; they provide for the community at large.  So we want to adapt these examples of best practice within the Peak Park.  More than that we want to make it possible for every church and chapel—despite not having resources—to have a chance to participate in community life in new ways.

One particular way we can do this is extend the hand of friendship to agencies and organisations — from outside our communities — that have the resources to help our communities.
One very significant way we can do this is by making our buildings available to them.  This way we help our communities indirectly, by helping those who can help our communities.

Many of the issues our communities face are common also in urban areas.  We can think of poverty, isolation, lack of access to facilities.
However, in rural communities, and especially in a National Park, where there are many fewer towns, some of these issues are very pressing and by definition the smaller the community the less facilities it can sustain.  But there are other problems: in farming, and lack of broadband, and lack of transport, schools, shops, POs, etc.
If our local village churches and chapels can’t fill a particular niche (like becoming also a PO or library or shop) it can be the place where people can come to get help and support from “advice services” that do the rounds.  What about our churches becoming places where visitors can get information about local events and attractions?  After all, it’s said that the Peak District is the 2nd most visited location in the whole world.