Growing the Rural Church

“For centuries our network of village churches have been at the heart of rural communities. Their towers and spires speak of the changelessness of God. Rural life is at a turning point. People are rediscovering the gift of the local, supporting each other and finding imaginative solutions to the many challenges that are confronting us. All this bodes well for the health of rural churches and the communities they serve.  Bishop Robert, August 2020.

Rooted in prayer, Growing the Rural Church aims to:

  • resource rural Mission Communities…
  • …to creatively use their talents and buildings, and to…
  • connect with their unique communities and landscapes to develop sustainable futures.

Visit our new website for events, toolkits, resources, and guidance on how to develop a sustainable future for your community.

Who we are

The Diocese of Exeter’s vision for growth includes the Growing the Rural Church Project.  The Project runs for seven years (2017-2023) and is backed by a £1 million grant from the Church Commissioners with additional funding from our Diocesan Synod.

What we do

Growing the Rural Church:

  • Resources rural Mission Communities. We offer advice and tools that will guide rural Mission Communities as they discern and make changes that will help them to flourish.
  • Promotes creativity in the way we think about solutions. This could be around governance, how we use buildings, the people and organisations we partner with, the worship we offer…
  • Encourages connections within Mission Communities, with local communities and businesses, with communities of interest, with the local landscape and environment.

Resources are available to guide you through making courageous decisions for the future, and offer detailed step-by-step advice on putting those changes into action. You can access our resources here.

Bishop Robert introduces our new approach here.

What we do

Devon Pilgrim is a project by Growing the Rural Church which established new pilgrimage routes linking Devon’s historic churches and ancient holy sites are being launched as part of a new project across the county.

Devon Pilgrim aims to offer all the inspiration and information people need to “take a journey of the heart”.

Devon Pilgrim website:

Meet our Team

Sarah Cracknell, Project Manager

Sarah has lived in Devon for over 20 years and lives on the South coast with her two dogs. She has been part of the Growing the Rural church project since joining as a Project Officer in January 2018. She became the Project Manager in July 2019. Sarah has previously worked in the community development field, often with marginalised groups in society.

Outside work she loves to be involved in creative activities, usually with her local church. These range from enthusiastic participation in The Surprise Singers, a church based community choir, to installing and running a sand labyrinth prayer installation which ran during Lent. She’s also rarely seen without some wool and a crochet hook in her hand! During lockdown she has trained as a Taketime Meditation Practitioner and is about to start leading a mediation group in her local town.

Sarah’s passion is to see rural churches become confident in taking risks and trying out creative ideas, so that they become the flourishing, beating heart of their community, connecting with the people that live and work around them in ways that are relevant to them.

Sam Upham, Project Officer

Sam is originally from the North West but, after 9 years in Somerset, moved to Devon 2 years ago to join the Mission Community Development Team.  She took on some part-time, temporary project work with the Growing the Rural Church Project and has somehow ended up with a full- time role as Project Officer.

Sam is passionate about rural ministry and the special part it plays in the life of this Diocese. She loves to see congregations engaging with their communities in new and innovative ways.

Outside work, Sam is a Reader and Churchwarden in Torquay. Her house is always busy with a husband and 2 dogs at home, and 2 adult children and 2 grandchildren living nearby (no, she doesn’t think she’s old enough either!).  In her spare time, she can usually be found with a sci-fi boxset, or reading a crime thriller.

Jonathan Yandall, Project Support Officer

Originally from Torquay, Jonathan moved to the big smoke of London in 2012 to study at theological college, followed by over 4 years of working for a large city church. Jonathan returned to Torquay at the start of lockdown 1.0, rediscovered a love for his home county, and is now getting stuck into his brand-new role as Project Support Officer for Growing the Rural Church.

Outside of work, Jonathan would ordinarily love to travel to cold and remote places. In the absence of such freedoms in 2021, he loves to write music, play (very) amateur tennis with his brother, and entertain his 6-year-old ‘little cousin’ whose interests are Lego, Star Wars and generally exhausting everyone around him.

Contact Us

If you are uncertain about where to start, do contact the team to book a 1:1 advice session in our online surgeries. Please let your Archdeacon know that you are getting in touch with us.