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Village Church - a vision for rural Aberdeenshire

Alistair Birkett

Director for Scotland and North of England, Rural Ministries

During October, I was thrilled to be able to visit one of the newest, and most northerly churches in our network - Village Church, Oldmeldrum. It was a beautiful sunny morning as I drove through the Aberdeenshire countryside arriving for a 10am Gathering at the Pavilion in Oldmeldrum Park. Initially I thought I’d arrived at the wrong venue; things were due to begin in five minutes and the door was still locked. Who was setting up? Where were the welcome team? Immediately my perceptions of how we do ‘normal’ church were challenged as everyone arrived at 10am, everyone helped set out the tables and chairs and everyone provided food and drinks for the brunch. The family feel reflecting Village’s value of Open Hospitality was immediately felt.

Village began in 2019 with a vision to see rural church flourish in the villages of Aberdeenshire and beyond. Bridget Sunderland (lead pastor) and her husband Tom who lead Village Church commented:

… we believe that God’s heart for the rural community to thrive has not changed. As such, our specific vision is to see church planting into the communities that have seen decline, and witness God bring new life to these important communities in our nation of Scotland. Village Church has a wider vision to see a network of rural churches planted across our country, of which Village Church Oldmeldrum is the first.’

Their vision to see rural towns, villages and hamlets changed and renewed comes specifically from Isaiah 58:12 ‘Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.’ Bridget mentioned that they seek not to simply grow in number, but to multiply out into other local towns and villages. Could it be that a network of small, contextual church groups in various locations can be more fruitful in the rural context, than one larger commuter church?

The values of Family Together, Mission Minded, Big Generosity and Open Hospitality build on this vision and inform all of Village’s activities based around a monthly rhythm of meetings. On the first Sunday evening of the month they meet together for Encounter, a reflective space for worship and prayer. The second Sunday of the month is a bring and share brunch which I attended. It included food, great conversations around the tables, a relevant discursive Bible study and communion. The third Sunday of the month is VC Kids, an opportunity for all the family to explore faith through games, activities, music, arts & crafts and food. The fourth Sunday is all about a social gathering, and also can involve listening to and serving the local community. Coupled to this, a Mainly Music group has begun for little ones and their carers, and finally there are regular midweek small groups.

Bridget and Tom further comment:

‘We are passionate about people, relationships and creating spaces where people can belong, where they are valued and where they can come to know Jesus as their Lord and Saviour and know His transformational love in their lives, their families and communities… Jesus is so generous to us in his love and so we believe we are called to be the same. These values help us love others sacrificially and where we recognise that all we have is God’s, so we are called to share that. Our values also challenge us to see the church not as an organisation but a family, a family of God where each and every one is a brother or sister and has a place to belong.’

Please pray for Village Church as they share their vision more widely in Aberdeenshire and beyond, that many more small, contextual groups will develop in the towns, villages and hamlets in this beautiful part of Scotland.


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