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St Mary, Yaxley

Story

When the Revd Tiffer Robinson took up the post of Assistant Curate in the benefice in 2009, two Sunday services a month – at different times - were held at St Mary’s church. The church’s declining situation was in contrast to that of the village of Yaxley which is a thriving community of 400 residents including many young families.

Following the first year of his curacy Tiffer was keen to channel his ministry in the most effective possible way. He saw an opportunity to turn the situation at St Mary’s church around, building on its location in the midst of a thriving village community, if he could be enabled to focus his work on this one church, rather than spreading his ministry thinly across the whole benefice. The proposal was supported by Tiffer’s training incumbent, the benefice and the diocese.

A number of steps were taken as part of the process of moving from decline to growth. These included:

a) Simplifying worship – A weekly Sunday service at 10.30am was introduced, with a Sunday school – called 10.30 club – catering for pre-school and primary age children. The introduction of the new pattern of services was timed to coincide with Back to Church Sunday in 2010.
b) Personal invitation – Tiffer visited everyone in Yaxley in order to invite people to Back to Church Sunday and encouraged members of the congregation to invite people themselves.
c) Planning – There was meticulous planning for the new service & Sunday school. A service was devised with elements that those coming back to church would recognise and be familiar with but an atmosphere of community and joy. An assembly at the local school promoted the Sunday Club.

Back to Church Sunday was attended by 58 adults and 17 children. Today average Sunday attendance is 35 and numbers are continuing to slowly grow. The Sunday Club continues and a Christianity Explored course has been offered. Giving has increased by six times since Back to Church Sunday in 2010. The next phase will involve developing lay ministry including ‘Lay Elders’ to lead many of the services once the Curate has moved on.

Significant growth has been achieved in this small rural church in a small space of time by means of a few simple steps. Accessible worship, personal invitation and continuity of pastoral ministry have been key to that growth.