Photo Credit: Arthur Rank Centre
From the Church of England
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has called for a "brave" and "radical" approach to rural ministry in a welcoming address at a conference today for church leaders working in the countryside.
The Archbishop delivered words of encouragement to nearly 300 lay and ordained church leaders and congregation members from major denominations active in rural areas, at the Germinate conference in Coventry.
Rural ministry is not more difficult than any other ministry, but is very often more complicated, Archbishop Justin said in a video message to the conference.
He added that reimagining ministry in the countryside involved "coming back to the faithfulness of God in all his people, especially lay people."
"I would really want you to be brave and radical in how you look at rural ministry, how you think about it, how you pray for it, what you hear the Spirit saying to the churches about the future of rural ministry," Archbishop Justin said.
Bishop of Shrewsbury, Mark Rylands, in a key note address, told the conference that shared leadership was crucial for the future of rural ministry.
"If mission is more about discerning God's direction, then prayer needs to be our first and primary activity and shared leadership is crucial," he said.
He added: "The parish church, the church or the chapel in the village, is not to be an exclusive place but an inclusive place for the local stranger, for those who do not know the way, the truth and the life, who do not know that they have a place in the heart of God. It is the inside place for the outsider."
Rev Capt Richard Priestley, who works as a priest in charge and a mission enabler in the Mendip Hills in Somerset, told the conference that pioneering work did not have to be "big" and did not have to reject traditional forms of worship. He also spoke in favour of shared leadership.
"I know that I cannot do it all, I have learned that over the years, because I have been trying to do it all," he said.
"As a rural pioneer I have been careful not to try to be the answer to everybody, but to be somebody who is an encourager."
He added: "Coffee culture is increasingly part of what we do today, it is literally putting on the kettle and inviting people, giving them space."
The conference was organised by the Arthur Rank Centre, the churches' centre for rural mission and ministry, on behalf of all the major denominations, groups and agencies working in the countryside including Fresh Expressions, New Wine, Messy Church and the Rural Theology Association.
The event drew together Christian denominations from across Britain, including Baptists, Methodists, the United Reformed Church, the Church of England and the Baptist Union of Wales as well as the Episcopal Church of Scotland and the Church of Scotland.
Canon Dr Jill Hopkinson, the Church of England 's national rural officer, said the Arthur Rank Centre is planning to run the conference on rural mission every two years and looks forward to welcoming people again for the conference in October 15 2016.
"This is the first time we have run such a large scale day conference, we are really excited to have nearly 300 people who are committed to developing rural mission," she said.