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Forest of Dean: dairy farming couple sees families flock to resurgent church

A church which had closed its doors in 1999 now sees more than 100 worshippers flocking to its services, after the work of a part-time dairyman and his wife in the Forest of Dean ...

A church which had closed its doors in 1999 now sees more than 100 worshippers flocking to its services, after the work of a part-time dairyman and his wife in the Forest of Dean.
 
The Bible is full of references to shepherds and the care of sheep but very rarely dairymen and the care of cows. Counties evangelist Tim Cracknell and his wife Katrina live and work on the diary farm where Tim was born 50 years ago, and have overseen the revival of an old Gospel Hall which was built by coal mine owners nearly 100 years ago.
 
Tim said: “It was a 1920s Gospel Hall, built in a mining community without foundations, literally. When we re-opened it nine years ago, our congregation was six ladies in their 80s. We now have around 100 coming through the doors, including children.”
 
It hasn't always been an easy journey. The building itself was full of asbestos and had been shoddily erected. It cost the church £150,000 to sort out the building and make it useable for the 21st century. Ironically the congregation is now so large they have outgrown the original building and moved main service to a local school hall, although they still use the old Gospel hall for other activities."
 
Tim said: “As we re-launched the church, we began to see a trickle of people come through the doors. Typically, the story was very similar. They had attended Sunday School in the 1950s or 1960s, which they had enjoyed. They had married non-Christian partners. But there was something missing in their lives, they knew they loved God but hadn’t set foot in a church in 40 years.  

They began returning to God and His church.
 
The other major work in the church was community outreach, providing the services such as toddlers groups, but practical assistance to those who needed it – repainting a school room or providing help through a food bank. Along the way they have seen people transformed by God’s salvation.
 
Tim is keen to share his experiences as a church planter and an evangelist with other church leaders. Having heard how the Gospel Hall died a low death from the late 1960s through the end of the century through a series of poor decisions, he says it is always leaders have to work closely together, have tough conversations with themselves and each other, constantly be seeking God’s guidance.
 
“We have to resist the "we have enough people now” syndrome, when in reality there are tens of thousands in our area without Christ. So we need to keep on being unselfish people, to reach out to the lost and accept the changes in our church that this creates.”
 
“My passion and heart is to say, as church leaders we need to make the right decisions, it’s not about being popular – this is tough, but there is no great calling in the world.”
 
For more on the story, as well as many other inspirational items, see the latest copy of Counties’ Ignite magazine.
 
Counties is a Christian charity, established in 1899, with a vision to share the Gospel with the counties of the UK. More info at www.countiesuk.org

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