'Tell the stories to help people to care'
This was the overall message at the second annual Christian Heritage Conference organised by Bassetlaw Christian Heritage (BCH), which took place at The Well Conference Centre in Retford recently (10 March).
A common theme amongst delegates was the need to construct meaningful stories about their areas of interest, which people could relate to, and care about.
Local author, historian and Baptist Adrian Gray welcomed 30 delegates representing 27 different organisations from around England engaging in discussions about ‘working with your local council’, ‘does Christian Heritage matter’, ‘using publicity, marketing and social media’, ‘modern pilgrimage’, ‘engaging with local churches’, ‘raising money’, ‘engaging with religious education’, and ‘news from London’.
Delegates provided fascinating and informative accounts, including Dr John Clements about the local Separatist John Robinson’s time in Norwich and Norwich Old Congregational Chapel which is advancing Puritanism today.
George Burrows from the Birmingham Christian Heritage Centre showed that people voluntarily give them historical items, including a Bible signed and owned by Thomas Babbington MP (a member of the anti-slavery movement with William Wilberforce).
Geoffrey Marshall, from the Churches Visitor and Tourism Association gave an exhilarating romp through his innovative and successful activities including post office promotional franking, services in the open on top of a tower, and a dinner dance in a cathedral.
Sandra Withington from Bassetlaw District Council, Paul Howitt-Cowan from West Lindsay Churches Festival, and Anna Scott, Heritage Consultant, said that working with councils and local churches was most effective when aligning with their objectives, priorities and aspirations, and being aware of their limited budgets. There was then a more reflective session from author, Diana Chapman, who gave a moving statement on her belief that Christian Heritage really does matter.
Sarah Crosland, of the National Churches Trust, explained that visits to Christian places of worship were increasing and that four out of five Britons think that churches are an important part of our history. Websites, mobile technology, and the importance of video images were the norm now and vital in interesting people in heritage sites.
Robert Mountford, Ecumenical Mission Officer (Churches Linked Across Staffordshire and the Potteries) described how ‘Pilgrimage walks’ were increasing in popularity in Staffordshire, and some churches were even offering overnight accommodation. Hilary Wheat explained how the Hidden Treasures project in Bilborough, as well as successfully renovating a neglected and vandalised church building, was able to provide youth training opportunities to local people.
Mike Arnold from Nottinghamshire SACRE (Standing Advisory Council for Religious Education) emphasised the importance of working with the education system in contributing local topics and resources for schools.
The day was completed by Ben Virgo from Christian Heritage London, who showed the impact of short videos made using mobile phones.
Next year’s event is already planned for Friday March 9th 2018, and if any organisation involved in Heritage Tourism would like to attend or take part they should contact Adrian Gray at email@example.com.
Bassetlaw Christian Heritage focuses on the people and their stories based on faith heritage, with their roots established in and around Bassetlaw, North Nottinghamshire. The region we cover is centred on Retford, with a radius of around 30 miles, including parts of Lincolnshire and South Yorkshire.
We are keen to work collaboratively with groups and individuals, and if anyone would like to help us in any way, they can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Website at: www.bassetlawchristianheritage.com
Pilgrims and Prophets is an organisation which provides Christian Heritage Tours up to 30 miles from Retford – information is available at http://pilgrimsandprophets.co.uk/