Our Vision Statement is 'At the Heart of the Community' because we believe that this both reflects something of the character of Rusland Church as it is now and also challenges us to think of ways in which we could be more at the heart of the community. We are a small and very rural church but we firmly believe that both our building and people have a very special character, that there are things we do especially well and that we have the potential to build on this.
To help us with our Mission Action Plan we are using the 'marks of discipleship' as described in the Carlisle Diocesan Vision Statement. This plan will be reviewed annually.
Given our Vision Statement, this particular mark of discipleship seems like a good place to start. At first sight 'At the Heart of the Community' might seem like an odd statement for a church whose building has no housing around it, but there is no village as such in our parish - just scattered houses and small collections of dwellings at Thwaite Moss, Thwaite Head, Crosslands and Rusland Cross. The Church, and the Reading Room next to it, are conveniently located to engage with the community.
Rusland and its valley contain an extremely active community in which the church plays an important role. Social events organised by the church (often with Rusland and Satterthwaite Churches acting together) are popular and attended by a broad cross-section of the community. The church makes a financial contribution to the Rusland Valley News and each monthly edition contains church news and a 'thought for the day' type piece.
Our community engagement also extends well beyond parish boundaries. A significant proportion of our regular congregation do not live within the parish. And there are many visitors to the church building, who come looking for peace and quiet, or looking for Arthur Ransome's grave, or who just stumble across it. We like to offer a warm welcome to all. We have displays in the church which highlight items of local interest and seek to show the church's role in the local community and the work (charitable and non-charitable) in which members of the community have been involved throughout the world.
Throughout the year we support a number of charities (local, national and international) through special collections and specific fund raising and we actively encourage each other's charitable interests and invite updates about them.
Action: We will encourage local people to share their experience of international work as part of our Sunday services.
"Jesus, confirm my heart's desire
To work and speak and think for Thee"
We value being part of a benefice which also includes Hawkshead, Sawrey and Satterthwaite parishes, with whom we work well. We would like to nurture these relationships. As mentioned above, warm-hearted social events (often in partnership with Satterthwaite) are a feature of our church and valley life. We are keen to maintain this, not only because it is important for the community to get together and know each other but also because we enjoy having fun.
We always seek to offer pastoral care where it is needed and wanted.
Prayer and worship should certainly be at the heart of our church life and, in keeping with our Vision Statement, we aim to make our worship services as welcoming and accessible as possible for our community.
The size of the congregation and the building lend themselves to a fairly intimate and informal style of worship but we are also keen not to lose the sense of the transcendent. A sense of the beauty of the world around us is important for us.
We have recently had a number of liturgical innovations, with the removal of chancel furniture, using a central altar and receiving communion in a circle, and introducing a new modern language Communion Service. These have been successful but will need time to settle. We do not usually have an organist but, by innovative use of our recently acquired organ, we enjoy the musical side of our worship.
The congregation is small but growing. It is important that we maintain and develop our excellent ministry of welcome and show people that we enjoy our worship. We have coffee/tea after every service which is an especially precious time to talk and engage with visitors who have worshipped with us.
Action: Members of the congregation will offer lifts to enable young people to come to the All Age Service in Hawkshead, and we will explore the possibility of occasionally offering something for them at Rusland. We will work in partnership with the Education Trust.
We would like to be people who live out the Gospel so fully and attractively that others are drawn into our midst. Evangelism for us also involves invitation and encouragement. We would like our congregation to be confident to invite and encourage others to join us. Our local events are a good way to meet and build relationships with those who do not regularly attend church.
To encourage people with their faith, the benefice holds regular courses. The aim is that there should be enough variety for there to be a wide appeal. There are always courses at Lent and Advent and occasional ones throughout the year.
We strive to encourage our members to discern, offer and use their gifts for God, for the community and for each other.
Action: To discuss the formation of a house group, possibly jointly with Satterthwaite Church.
They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Every day they continued to meet together, praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
Acts 2: 42, 46-7