‘A visionary work that has endured and flourished.’
Rev Canon J.John
In the Church, we are used to hearing stories of God renewing and redeeming communities in our cities. But what might a work of God look like in the countryside, with its different demographics, resources and – crucially – geography? Redigging the Wells tells us just that!
Author Stephen Mawditt was long-time leader of Fountain of Life, a Church of England missionary congregation established twenty-five years ago in rural Norfolk. Having begun life in a village community centre, it now has its own dedicated building and a worshipping community of more than 300 adults. This allows the church to facilitate a range of community initiatives and creative outreach projects, pioneering work with children, young people and families as well as the older generation.
But, critically, it also supports a string of missional communities that meet across Norfolk, in people’s homes and community centres, in village pubs and schools, and even in the forest. Owing to the unique nature of rural life, it is essential for lay members to do much of the work that might be undertaken by paid church workers in urban settings, and training and releasing people in their discipleship potential has been a key part of Fountain of Life’s success.
Stephen sees Fountain of Life as a resourcing church, with a strong centre that is able to support lay people in evangelism and discipleship, often at many miles’ distance. Those who want to engage in rural mission need unique support, ‘a family around them to equip and train them as well as provide ongoing support and encouragement,’ he says. Sharing from many years’ experience, Stephen honestly relates the ‘successes’ and the ‘failures’, encouraging us that it’s OK if we don’t always get things ‘right’.
‘This is the story of what God has done in the heart of rural Norfolk to bring transformation and hope,’ comments Stephen. ‘We are a group of very ordinary people who have simply wanted to see the kingdom of God come, lives changed by knowing the person of Jesus Christ and our communities enriched and infused by the Spirit of God. He has been faithful. It’s an imperfect story and an unfinished one but I stand amazed at the evidence of God’s grace among us. Our journey is set within a changing church landscape over the past three decades and, as such, Redigging the Wells is also something of a commentary on those times.’
Redigging the Wells shows how Fountain of Life grew from its humble beginnings, negotiating the unique challenges and opportunities of doing rural mission and building community. It demonstrates the value of big events and celebrations, but also what lay people can do when they are equipped and empowered, lessons that can be applied in all settings, urban and rural!
‘A picture of what a truly biblical “resourcing church” can look like in the twenty-first century.’