This spring, the Right Reverend Philip Mounstephen visited the Church of St Brevita in the village of Lanlivery to see local parishioners’ work in action.

That work has included setting up a community library in the church itself and refurbishing that beautiful medieval building to allow greater access and flexibility for community events, such as Restormel Concert Band’s recent spring concert, staged at the end of last month in collaboration with the Champagne Cornwall Chorus choir.

St Brevita’s has also developed a close working relationship with the neighbouring Red Moor School, a specialist school based in Lanlivery which supports children with social, emotional and communication difficulties.

The church has successfully collaborated with this relatively new facility on a range of social, creative, horticultural and environmental initiatives – from pancake day to festive services – from planting bulbs in the churchyard to the traditional annual dressing of St Brevita’s well – as well as hosting regular meetings of the school’s student council.

Volunteers Mark Steer and Rosemary Truscott

They’re currently also planning a major project for Remembrance Day to create an installation in the churchyard and across the village using scallop shells and hazel stakes to make giant poppies.

“The children from the school will be doing a great deal of the work, and we’ll also be working with a veterans group in Lostwithiel, who will be a big part of it,” explains parish volunteer Mark Steer.

Another future collaboration already in the planning stages will involve devoting an unused part of the churchyard to grow Christmas trees for the village community.

Mark observes that they’re grateful for the support the diocese offers projects run by such small churches as St Brevita’s. They are also especially thankful for the participation of local people in their activities.

“Even people from the village who don’t come to church are always happy to help out,” Mark says.

His fellow volunteer Rosemary Truscott adds: “Local people understand they can use the church for community purposes. It doesn’t always have to be for religious reasons.”

Mark agrees that opening up the ancient building as a key amenity for the village community is what will secure its long-term future.

“It makes the church truly viable,” he says. “There’s nothing in the church that you can’t turn around. You just have to talk to people and get things moving.

“We’re such a small community here. The church is the village. Absolutely.”

This is a sentiment echoed by the Reverend Paul Beynon, the rector with responsibility for pastoral care across the benefice of Lostwithiel, including Lanlivery parish itself. Paul was also this week commissioned as Rural Dean of Trigg Minor and Bodmin.

Paul is in his eighth year of working in this famously scenic part of the Fowey River Valley. He says that one of his life’s greatest joys is to walk around the traditional parish bounds of Lanlivery to view the village in all its glory.

“You can look down at the church sitting in the heart of the community, continuing to serve the village as it has for many hundreds of years,” he says. “It’s an incredible privilege to be serving this wonderful community and these wonderful people.”

He explains that he feels that the approaches taken in Lanlivery and across Lostwithiel are vital to the future of their churches’ ministry.

“What we’re trying to do is find new and innovative ways of re-establishing the traditional relationship between church and community,” he says. “Our parish church is now seen as being at the heart of village life. It’s as natural a part of that life as the local pub!”

Revd Paul Beynon, Ellen McConnell and Tim Turner

Their strategy seems to be bearing fruit. This month’s Feast Week celebrations, for example, saw the church, as the rector puts it, “absolutely packed”.

Churchwarden Tim Turner agrees with Paul Beynon’s view of the role of the church today.

“We’ve had to have a change of mindset as to how we use our churches,” he says. “They have to be seen again as community buildings – places at the hearts of their communities. That’s always been our plan.”

One such initiative has been to set up a new community library in St Brevita’s church.

Tim’s fellow churchwarden Ellen McConnell says that this project, which was originated by local teenager Emily Richards, has “really taken off”.

“It’s bringing people into the church,” she explains. “People are seeing it as a community facility.”

Tim adds that it’s a project he hopes they can develop even further.

“We’re overflowing with books,” he says. “And we’d love to expand it!”

St Brevita’s offers a warm welcome not only to village residents and local schoolchildren but also to a whole host of people just passing through. The church stands on part of the Saints’ Way, a route popular with pilgrims and tourists on walking holidays through the centre of the Duchy, and it now offers the hospitality of a hot drink and essential provisions (even including sun cream and a fresh pair of socks) to weary travellers seeking succour on the way.

The church is open to visitors day and night, every day.

There’s even a bowl of water and a couple of jars of dog biscuits provided in the porch at the entrance to the church. Today, these gifts are given out in celebration of Lanlivery’s “canine of the quarter”.

The notable canine in question – and in whose honour this noble new tradition was recently inaugurated – is none other than Noggin, the faithful companion of the Bishop and Mrs Mounstephen, who accompanied the couple on their recent visit to Lanlivery.

“It’s great, isn’t it?” Bishop Philip laughs.

The Bishop says he found his visit brilliantly fun and inspiring. He’d even been piped into St Brevita’s by local piper John Brown.

“It was a really good visit,” says churchwarden Ellen McConnell. “He really joined in the spirit of the day. He even planted a tree in the churchyard!”

The positive energy and commitment of the people of Lanlivery is evidently highly infectious.

“The whole church building has been beautifully refurbished to make it a wonderful warm community space,” Bishop Philip enthuses. “It’s a model of a vibrant, creative rural church. The people I met were just all so positively disposed. It’s great testimony to Reverend Paul Beynon’s leadership that he has gently encouraged all this.

“The church has been so welcoming to children and young people. Church, school and community merge wonderfully into one another.

“Red Moor School is great. They’re using church glebe land in a wonderful creative way to enhance the school environment and teach skills to young people.

“And I got to plant a tree there! What’s not to like!”

Bishop Philip, accompanied by Revd Paul Beynon, Mrs Ruth Mounstephen and Noggin Mounstephen, is piped into St Brevita’s Church by John Brown (photo: Keith Larby)