Although described as a rural idyll, Ramsey also contains pockets of rural deprivation.
Unemployment, closure of shops in the High Street, lack of facilities for the young and a sense of isolation within the rural area often contribute to a sense of powerlessness. From it's beginning in May 2011, when a group of four began meeting at the local pub, The George, Revive has grown and now boasts an impressive weekly attendance of 30 people. The initiative was set up to provide fellowship meals and Christian worship to the unchurched and dechurched.
Over the years there have been twelve full immersion baptisms and five confirmations. From that basis, it has grown a Foodbank staffed by volunteers, drop-in cafe and a furniture project providing good quality household items that are collected from around the community, then made available for those in need through a referral system.
Revive now holds a short service of midday prayer with singing and a short message and then moves to the back of the Church for a simple hot meal. Having the meal during Foodbank time (following the service) means that those coming for food parcels are also provided with a free meal. These projects offer the love of God and the truth of the Gospel to people in search of community and transformation.
Essence, Impington and Histon
St Andrew's, Histon is a well-established mission minded church just to the north of Cambridge.
The vicar, the Revd James Blandford-Baker, realised that they were missing many people who would never come into a Sunday service. And so Essence was born, in an attempt to offer mothers a space to explore their spirituality alongside the Christian narrative.
Running on a Wednesday morning, it begins at 9.15am with coffee and croissant. People arrive and settle their babies in the creche (run by a wonderful team from St Andrew 's). At 9.45am they begin a time of input and discussion. With visitors every week it is essential to rehearse the ethos of Essence at the start (all questions are valid). They break for more tea and coffee and the essential cake and then at 11am move upstairs for our quiet space. Children are collected from the creche at 11.30.
Essential to the success of Essence has been the team made up of clergy, a lay pastor for people with young families, a children's worker and other lay people who have taken on certain roles. The creche team give their time generously and have a real heart for the mothers as well as the children.
They too feel involved in the spiritual journeys of those who come with many conversations about what God has been doing as the mothers pick up their children after the quiet time. The topics for the sessions each week are a mix of ideas from the team and suggestions from those who attend. Unlike on a Christian basics course, there is no sense of the need to get through a defined 'spiritual programme'. They go with the flow and find that there are plenty of opportunities to explore all the most important Christian themes and ideas.
Essence is a mobile group as mothers come for a time and then return to work as new people join. The group is very open - men have been known to attend, and those who come cover an age range from the very young to someone in their 80s. Attendance including children is around the 40 to 50 mark each week.