Alicia Rumsby has breathed new life into her church with twenty years of dedication and passion for musicals.
At the same time, she has opened up the message of Christianity to hundreds of children, and entertained thousands of people in her community.
In 1998, with the adult congregation at Bladon Methodist Church in Oxfordshire slowly dwindling, Alicia hit on the idea of using her skills as a teacher of musical theatre to attract youngsters.
Since then, around three hundred children from all over the county have grown up in the church – to the point where they are now bringing their own sons and daughters along.
‘I refer to them as “my kids”,’ said Alicia. ‘And we really are like a big family. We have a strict rule that you have to join the junior church and come along to our Sunday service, which is tailored to them, and they absolutely love it. It helps develop their moral standing, even if they don’t all become full time churchgoers.’
Alicia has always focused on big, West End-style shows – including such international hits as Cats, Les Miserables, Matilda, Oliver!, and Annie – and these are expensive to stage.
But generous donations from the parents of children – and now, from the children themselves, as they have grown up and gone into work – have equipped the church with professional project, lighting, and sound equipment, and put it on a firm financial footing for the future.
‘We have six sold out shows twice a year, with a hundred people at each,’ said Alicia. ‘For many of our local residents, particularly the elderly, it’s something they really look forward to as a great opportunity to socialise. For the children, it builds their creativity and teamwork, and the confidence they get from performing in front of audiences is wonderful.’