Last Sunday I was invited to formally open and take part in the ‘Woodlands Festival’.
It was a fun day and brought together All Saints Church, Woodlands, with groups and organisations to share in an excellent community celebration.
The festival started with a service at All Saints Church and then a large group of people, many blowing whistles and dancing to music, took part in a procession around the village despite the inclement weather.
It was a joy to see a considerable number of local people take part in the procession and come out of their houses with smiles on their faces, joining in the fun.
The festival was first held when the local squire’s wife and the colliery owner Arthur Markham’s sister approached him.
They persuaded him to let all the men in the model village have the day off, with pay!
It enabled them to spend valuable time with their families one day a year.
The festival was first held about a hundred years ago - the same time the Diocese of Sheffield, of which Doncaster is a part - came into being.
The diocese will be celebrating its centenary at locations in South Yorkshire when there will be a real sense of celebration and festival.
We also think this year about the 100th Anniversary of World War I and our minds are drawn to other conflicts, including World War II.
One of the memories this invokes is the sense of community and pulling together - wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could see the same spirit all of the time?
The church has always served its local community and in doing so added to the spiritual and material benefit and welfare of the area, engendering a real sense of community, mutuality and working together.
The church is called on to serve communities as an expression of God’s mission to the whole world.
This was the world Jesus entered and Christians are called to be engaged in it.
Whether you’re a member of a church or not we all want to see our local communities, neighbours and friends flourish and reach their potential, making the best of the opportunities that a developing Doncaster has to offer.
We can only achieve that when we pull together in a spirit of community, working together for the common good.
The government used to talk about the ‘Big Society’ although I prefer the phrase ‘The Good Society’.
Our local communities, at their best, have been doing this for years - the Woodlands Festival bears witness to this.
Those who feel a sense of belonging tend to lead happier and healthier lives, and strong communities create a more stable and supportive society. So let us all endeavour to work even harder at developing really good local communities in which everyone can flourish, of which we can all be proud to be a part.
* Peter Burrows, Bishop of Doncaster