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people together Bringing

How one local church is bringing like-minded people together and engaging with their community, by Susie Kearley

Parishioners at St Mary’s Church in Princes Risborough, Buckinghamshire are making new friends and discovering new interests and skills in hobby groups, an initiative to bring people together outside of formal church worship. The groups, called Life Groups, include such diverse activities as travelling on steam trains, visiting breweries, keeping fit, discussing alternative approaches to healthcare, practising meditation, dog walking, and Bible study.

The groups foster a sense of belonging within church circles, and have even attracted non-churchgoers who are interested in the subjects on offer, so it’s a great way of reaching out to the community.

St Mary’s is no stranger to trying new things. They’ve been very proactive in recent years, developing initiatives such as youth services, coffee mornings and social events, and this has resulted in their regular Sunday congregation growing from around 130 people a few years ago, to about 200 people today.

The church takes into account the diversity of ages and interests among its parishioners, with mums and toddlers’ groups, youth groups, family services, and bereavement groups. Life Groups are a natural extension of these offerings, bringing like-minded people together to enjoy good company and indulge in diverse interests together.

The health and fitness group Covering everything from diet to acupuncture, the health and fitness group explores physical, emotional and spiritual health in the context of the Christian faith. “It’s a small group,” says the coordinator, Laila King. “We meet fortnightly to discuss and share

information. We savour each other’s delicacies by trying new therapies, have eureka moments, and delve into novel experiences. So far, we’ve enjoyed a Finnish sauna, experienced the relaxation of reflexology, and had relief from pain and stress with acupuncture. “We’ve looked at diet, alcohol and alternative therapies, and we’ve explored issues around

death, such as the prolongation of life in the very poorly or elderly. The group has been a great success – we’ve really bonded – and some of our members are peripheral to Sunday services but keen to explore their faith in this way. “There are so many fascinating topics to discuss: How can I lose weight and keep it off? What oils should I use in cooking? How can I get

my children to eat healthier options? Low-fat or low- carb meals: which are best for me and my children? Which vitamin supplements should we be taking, if any? How much alcohol is in a glass of wine? What should my cholesterol be? Is fasting good for our health? What is 5:2 intermittent fasting? Are complementary or alternative therapies OK and effective? Is Reiki OK for a Christian? “There are dozens of

enthralling topics to explore and we learn, or experience, something new at each meeting.”

30 October 2015 womanalive

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