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.

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 set by step advice on putting those changes into action. You can access our resources here.

Bishop Robert introduces our new approach here.

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


Sophie West, Project Officer

Sophie arrived in Devon for university eighteen years ago, and has never quite managed to leave!  She has worked for the Diocese for six years, and joined the Growing the Rural Church Project as Executive Officer in 2018, becoming Project Officer in early 2020.  Sophie particularly enjoys supporting local churches to engage with their local communities to find creative solutions that will help them to flourish.

Sophie currently lives in Mid Devon, and spends most of her time juggling work and a young family.  She also does some occasional French teaching, and enjoys singing, cooking, walking and kayaking in her spare time.

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.