TAKING communion to a care home, litter picking and a 6km charity run have all been part of Go 4th Sunday – a scheme that sees a congregation from Milton Keynes rolling their sleeves up and literally going forth, beyond the four walls of their church and into their village community. Jo Duckles visited to find out more.

They fuel up with pastries, tea and coffee, and children get the chance to play games. There is a short worship session with liturgy written especially for Go 4th Sunday. Then the refreshments continue for anyone who wants to hang out and chat at All Saints’ Church, Milton Keynes Village,  while teams of volunteers head out to work.

“…we believe we are called to unconditional service.”

The morning I visited was one with a difference. A team went to take communion to elderly residents at the Milton Court Care Home as usual. But, before going out to litter pick, the Revd Matt Trendall, the Rector, explained how the rest of the regulars were spending time reflecting on the two years since Go 4th, launched and how it should move forward. Matt said that since it began in 2017, Go Forth had provided a practical, easy way for people to serve. “Everyone from the community is always invited, it’s not just for the church. We need to be the message and have the capacity to share the message of God’s love. We are committed to serving unconditionally because we believe we are called to unconditional service.”

“Lots of people who were on the fringes have become more involved because of Go Forth.”

Hear Matt talk about how Go 4th began:

Notice board inviting people to drop in between 11am and 12.15pm

Milton Court Communion

The communion at Milton Court grew out of an existing event on Thursdays. Alise Trendall, Matt’s wife, got involved when Matt became Rector of All Saints, and St Mary’s Wavendon, both part of the Walton Churches Partnership, in 2013.

“There was already an established team of four or five people going into Milton Court on a Thursday morning. We realised how important spirituality was. Many of the people have dementia and sometimes people are undressing or singing over the top of you as you are talking, but they appreciate that you are choosing to go in rather than being paid to provide a service,” says Alise. Hear Alise talk about her experiences at the care home.

“We realised how important spirituality was.”

Gloria Terrelonge, Fr Keith Straughan, and his wife Christine were going to the care home on the morning I visited All Saints. Christine says she was inspired to get involved because when her mother was in a care home. “Although she was looked after incredibly well, a weekly act of worship was missing.”

Fr Keith said last month, one of the volunteers was stuck in Cyprus. “We broadcast the service from my phone to Cyprus and it lifted her spirits. Gloria says: “I just think that it’s nice we take the church to people and I love doing that.”

One of the staff team from the home praised the Go 4th team: “Our residents really enjoy the Sunday services; and as the wellbeing coordinator for the home, I think it is marvellous that the project creates a platform for our residents to still worship and practise their faith whilst living here at Milton Court.

“Mobility is a huge issue for 80 per cent of our residents so without the team visits, it would not be possible for most of our residents to access the community to continue with their worship. Over the year the team have shown empathy and compassion and have taken time to come to know our residents, many of whom have varying degrees of dementia and challenging behaviour. They have taken time to become friends of the home, and the services generate a lovely atmosphere and uplift spirits of our residents.  We owe huge thanks to everyone involved in the project. It has been of great benefit and so rewarding for us at Milton Court.”

Christine Straughan, her husband Fr Keith and Gloria Terrelonge prepare to take communion to a nursing home.

Trying different things

Matt said that a separate sing-a-along event has started at the care home as a result of the relationships people from All Saints had built up with staff and residents.
Go 4th Sunday has also helped build a great relationship with the primary school, where Matt now does regular assemblies. And the Go 4th group aren’t afraid to try things that might not work out.

“We tried a clothing exchange in the primary school one Wednesday afternoon and only three people came. It’s about having a go and seeing what works. Thomas Ellison took a long time to get a light bulb to work. He didn’t fail he just said he found 10,000 ways in which he couldn’t make a light bulb work.”

Raising over £1k in one day

One initiative that did take off was the Global 6km – a World Vision event encouraging people to run 6km as a fundraiser. The Milton Keynes based charity estimates that many children in the developing world have to walk around 6km per day to collect water for their families. Their journeys can be dangerous and mean they are forced to miss school.

The Global 6km is a running event challenging people to run or walk 6km to raise funds to help the communities those children live in.

Matt approached Jane Lee, who is a runner, to look into it. She realised that 6km can be a long way for someone who has never run before. “I designed a circular 1.5km route around the church. Around 50 people took part from both the church and the wider community. “We raised £1,100 and people are still donating money. We had a gazebo at the church with sweets and water and medals at the end,” says Jane.

“We will be getting 15-20 people to make 200 lunches…”

All Saints is also considering extending its outreach into areas outside of Milton Keynes Village – into more deprived areas of the larger Milton Keynes town. It’s already approached Paul Oxley at St Marks MK. There, Make Lunch feeds children who receive free school meals during the holidays, when poorer parents may struggle to put food on the table. “We will be preparing sandwiches as they are now doing packed-lunches to help feed a family for a week. We’ll be getting 15-20 people to make 200 lunches for them,” says Matt.

Go 4th – what’s next?

Jane added: “Going forward, how can we help organise the community to help other communities nearby.”

Matt has shared the Go 4th model with other churches and is happy to share further if anyone else in the Diocese or beyond is interested. He has branding that can be shared as well as the liturgy, and a hymn written by church steward, Carolyn Sanderson.

Hear Jane talk about her experiences with Go 4th.