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Flagging rural economies - church help

PUBLISHED: 20:12 17 September 2002 | UPDATED: 12:40 03 March 2010

CHURCHES have a vital role to play in regenerating flagging rural economies, delegates at a conference in Suffolk have been told.

Around 80 people from across Suffolk and Norfolk attended the Focus on Faith conference aimed at showing people from market towns how they can help boost their rural economy.

CHURCHES have a vital role to play in regenerating flagging rural economies, delegates at a conference in Suffolk have been told.

Around 80 people from across Suffolk and Norfolk attended the Focus on Faith conference aimed at showing people from market towns how they can help boost their rural economy.

The one-day event, held at St Edmundsbury Cathedral in Bury St Edmunds was organised by the Arthur Rank Centre – the ecumenical centre for the rural church – in co-operation with the Countryside Agency and the Church of England's Norfolk and Suffolk Diocese.

It was chaired by the Bishop of Norwich the Rt Rev Graham James, who is the Rural Bishops Panel chairman and a non-executive member of the Countryside Agency.

He said: "Ten years ago a conference on how businesses, churches and communities can work together would not have taken place.

"We've seen the value of the parish church this year at Soham, where it became a focus for the community. Nothing else can quite take the place of a church," he said.

"It is up to us in the church to respond appropriately to that demand and also work with regeneration partnerships see how a community can be enriched."

The conference brought churches and regeneration projects together to pool their knowledge so churches already active in partnerships could share their experiences and those not currently involved could think about engaging in initiatives in their towns.

Countryside Agency regional director Dr Michael Carroll, said: "It is starting the information exchange - we've got the information and we're trying to share it.

"Already there are 25 towns in the East of England and we want to keep that momentum going to encourage the others to join too.

"It will make a big difference in five or ten years as can get established by using their own strengths."

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