A new exhibition trailer will set off from Ripon Cathedral on Sunday, August 23, to spread the message of faith and fellowship around the Yorkshire Dales.
The trailer, named Church About the Dale, will provide active support and advice on debt, isolation, poverty, farming and community involvement across the isolated areas of the Yorkshire Dales.
The trailer is the inspiration of the Church of England and its Methodist colleagues in the Wensley region, which has more than 60 places of worship, each serving between 50 and 10,000 inhabitants.
Rev Ian Robinson, Rector for Bedale with Burrill, Thornton Watlass and Leeming, said: “We hope to be able to demonstrate the ways in which the church is not only relevant but also active in people’s lives and in providing support.”
Social issues such as loneliness and isolation are bigger issues in the rural community because of cuts to services such as the buses, libraries and post offices, and are exasperated by the lack of internet access, leaving the rural communities without the most basic level of support, according to a recent consultation paper from Ripon Cathedral.
Rev Robinson said: “This sums up our purpose behind the trailer project.
“We believe that the trailer could give hope and a sense of purpose to people across the Dale, and more widely as we consider its use in other places.”
After 18 months of planning, the trailer is now ready to hit the road for its Pilgrimage of Blessing from August 23-31.
When fully kitted out, the trailer will have hospitality space, seating, tea and coffee facilities and display space for leaflets and brochures about social issues and the Christian faith.
Rev Michael Hepper, Area Dean for the Wensley Deanery, said: “We are already involved with Hope Debt services, providing debt counselling and advice to the Dales. With the trailer we can take the services out into the field and provide local advice and referral.
“In terms of isolation, we will be providing space when on tour for people to meet, to sit and to talk. We will also be taking referrals for visitors from the churches to call and help relieve isolation.
“Handling poverty is a greater difficulty. We won’t have monetary resources but will be offering signposts to other services and facilities and also referring individuals and families to food banks with whom we are building relationships.”
“Having the trailer will also mean that there is greater opportunity to show support and solidarity to the farming communities offering services to tie in with the agricultural cycle.
“It is important to recognise that this cycle is not the same in each community as the terrain, climate and nature of the farming changes, so the timing of the cycle changes. The trailer will be able to respond to this effectively and provide a focal point for on farm and moor services of blessing.
“This will be very evident at our service on Sunday, August 30, when the trailer will be used at the remote lake Semerwater in Raydale as the focus of the annual lakeside service.”
Funding for the trailer came through prayer and fasting as churches and individuals loved the project and donated funds specifically for the purpose.
Rev Hepper said: “We came to recognise that in an area as wide and varied as this deanery, with a strong emphasis on farming, a large number of town and village markets, fetes, agricultural shows and festivals, the church was rarely visible outside the centres of population with church buildings.
“The congregations feel under threat of closure so the encouragement of the trailer will help them recognise that they are part of something lively and growing.
“In most of these smaller villages the church is central to the life and spirituality of the communities, even to those who do not regularly attend.
“The churches are indeed the spiritual lifeblood for the Dale.”
The trailer will visit and bless each community in Wensleydale, beginning with a Service of Blessing at Ripon Cathedral on Sunday and ending at the Jonas Centre, Leyburn, for a Closing Service with Bishop James at 4pm on August 31, followed by a BBQ.
For more information on the trailer and the pilgrimage’s route through Wensleydale, visit the Church About the Dale website: www.church-about-the-dale.org.uk.