Churches Together in Cornwall had an exhibition stand at the Creation Fest festival at Wadebridge this year for the first time – we had planned to do so last year but due to the pandemic the festival could not go ahead. This year a cut-down event was held over a long weekend rather than a week, and although only about half the usual numbers could attend a message of hope rang out loud and clear as we lived out the vision for this year’s Big Weekend: “Encountering God in a Time of Change – Refreshing the Church and Re-imagining Mission.”
Our reasons for exhibiting were two-fold – to showcase the work of churches of all denominations in serving communities across Cornwall, and to raise awareness among those visiting from outside our county that alongside beautiful beaches and cream teas we also live with significant poverty and social deprivation, with around 20 neighbourhoods among the 10% most deprived in England. To that end we focussed on our recently-launched SAM project, Social Action Mapping for Cornish Churches, in which we are working with Age UK to add details of church-led or supported projects to their community platform The Cornwall Link, to make them better known outside the church community, particularly to social prescribers, social workers and health professionals whose clients could benefit from them.
We provided information packs highlighting 14 different actions (from a much larger pool!), colour-coded them and asked visitors to choose an action of interest to them and place a sticker of corresponding colour on a map of Cornwall where they thought it might be needed. Each pack, placed on individual trays, contained a chocolate bearing the appropriate sticker which people were invited to peel off and place on the map, eat the chocolate and take the pack away with them – thus keeping the process as Covid-safe as possible! By the end of the three days we had given out 70+ packs and pretty much covered the map.
We also used the stand to publicise our developing work to raise awareness of modern slavery issues in Cornwall – another area people are often surprised to discover is a problem here. The first fruits of this programme are two posters we encourage people to download, print out and display in appropriate locations locally.
ln another ‘spotting’ activity we asked people to build up a picture of their ‘ideal’ church by marking their preferences for various features – such as singing, seating, style of prayer, inclusivity etc – which generated some animated conversations and not a few photos of the list by those who saw sermon material there!
And finally we encouraged discussion of what it means to be the Body of Christ in Cornwall in 2021, focussing on this widely-circulated (but unattributed!) collage: