Connecting the community and church in Oaks in Charnwood

The Rural Coffee Connect mobile barista van rolled into Oaks in Charnwood recently, to join forces with the community and St James the Greater Church, to help tackle rural isolation and loneliness.  

A host of representatives from local clubs, emergency services, the council, and church, came together to celebrate the hamlet’s lively community spirit and show just what’s on offer to those seeking support, pastimes, faith, and fellowship.

The coffee and conversation flowed in Oaks Storer Hall, outside in the car park where the van was set up, and over at St James the Greater Church.

Rural Coffee Connect is a mobile coffee van which offers free hot drinks and creates a safe, friendly space for conversation. It has been travelling around rural Leicestershire and Rutland connecting people since 2019.

Paula Freckelton, a member of the PCC of St James the Greater Church, found out about the initiative through a notice we posted in Diomail, and got in touch to see how she could make things happen in Oaks in Charnwood.  

Paula says: “As a church in a rural location, we fitted the remit perfectly and I knew this would be a great way to show people within Oaks, and further afield, what we have to offer as a church and community.”

As a church family, St James’ is actively working to bring people into the church community, and most significantly, into a relationship with God.

During the event, people were welcomed into the church, where the local Mother’s Union and Women’s Institute shared stories and greeted friends new and old, and information about regular services at the church and its Sunday School were available to those who popped by.

There were also lively demonstrations from Oaks Sequence Dance Club and the Leicester Diocesan Guild of Church Bell Ringers, as well as the opportunity for visitors to try out their puppeteering skills with puppets used in the church family services.

Experts from the event sponsor, Work Live Leicestershire (WiLL), were on hand to give advice about finding employment, with people taking leaflets away for themselves or friends and family who are currently unemployed or facing redundancy.

Bardon Hill Police Beat Team also had a stall, offering information, and giving away security accessorises such as purse bells.

Other contributors and clubs included Leicestershire Trading Standards, North West Leicestershire & Charnwood Public Health and Community Recovery Workers, Shepshed Foodbank, and Oaks Garden Club.

Paula says: “It was a great event that people came along to and enjoyed and hopefully found helpful. We have so much to offer here in the heart of Charnwood, and we want people to come to know that and join us and share in our church community.”

Plans are now underway for a few other pop-up events to take place in the car park in the future, with the support of local charities and organisations.

In recent months, other churches around the diocese have taken steps to address rural isolation and loneliness, including All Saints Church in Dunton Bassett, who are hosting the van each week into early November.

Rural Coffee Connect are always on the look-out for new areas to pop-up in Leicestershire. They take care of the promotion, the risk assessments, and all the activity on the day - all you need to provide is a suitable site (like a car park). If you would be interested in hosting Rural Coffee Connect, contact Florence Gildea, the Bishop's Social Policy Adviser, on 

First published on: 28th October 2022
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