Saturday, 20 November 2010

Rural Isolation - You can't live on a view.

It's Saturday and here I am in this big, empty church house (not called a vicarage you understand because a Curate lives here)  that has no personal link to me except that I live here sometimes. There is no family clutter and no family history. It's like living in a clean page. We furnished it with furniture we bought on E Bay. We really enjoyed doing this and have a house that is completely different to our family house. I understand how it is for The Curate during the week - bleak. I have always said I will give up work when he gets his first job as a vicar as this seems a natural new start. (Hopefully second son will have completed his studies by then.) Eventually, when The Curate and I are living together, we hope to be able to rent the family house out that is located on the other coast. 
Our village is very short of family sized houses that can accommodate a local family. This is a typical problem in many rural areas and fewer families adds to the decline of small villages and any available services. We no longer have a post office or shop and buses appear once a week I think. When we first moved there, there was an excellent village shop and a farm supplies / pet food / anything you might need shop. A bus went through to the coast so the local teenagers could catch the bus with their surf boards and spend days on the beach in their holidays. There was not much else for them to do. Then the cuts started - first of all they were not allowed to take their boards on the bus, then the buses were cut and the lanes are too narrow for safe bicycling. The children have to learn to drive as soon as they can if they want a life and if they can afford it. We have no choice but to use cars living here- and the price of petrol leads to rural isolation.
We still have our excellent village school - but I believe we are now going to share a head teacher. The church moved the vicarage to a neighbouring village years ago and effectively the church stopped being relevant in the village. We used to have wonderful harvest suppers, held in a barn, to which lots of the village went - whether they went to church or not. These have been replaced by a shared meal in the village reading rooms. 
We hear so much about poverty in the cities and the great initiatives to encourage cycling and provide facilities for young people. Some of the poorest children I have ever taught came from a rural area where their parents worked on farms. When will The Government realise we are not all landed gentry living in rural bliss? When will The Church realise that by removing vicars from small parishes and creating huge mission communities (the vicar next door to our village has ten churches to manage) the church often looses its direction and its relevance in the local communities? While the church is not the vicar, the vicar is often the face that people recognise as the church - even if there is a fantastically active PCC. The vicar does the 'matching and dispatching' and she/he should have the time to listen to, get to know and work with these increasingly isolated and sidelined communities. Someone needs to care because, however beautiful the surroundings are, you can't live on a view.

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