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Recently I wrote a review for the Presbyterian Outlook of the book Practicing Care in Rural Congregations and Communities.  The authors, Jeanne Hoeft, L. Shannon Jung, and Joretta Marshall, show why the church’s presence is critical in rural communities, and how congregations of God’s people care faithfully for one another and the community around them.  While it’s not an easy read, it is an important read for all who want to be faithful witnesses in a country context, and for all who care about small congregations and God’s work there.

The review starts this way: Practicing Care in Rural Congregations and Communities

I grew up in the 1960s in a dairy farm family and in a tiny rural church where everyone had ties to farming. The congregation shared a pastor with three other small congregations. I remember hearing my father, the clerk of session, report that the pastor thought that all the churches should close and become one large church in a central location, about fifteen miles from our farm. I remember thinking, “He doesn’t understand.” I realized then that the pastor didn’t understand the realities of farm life, and I realize now that he didn’t fully understand the sense of place that shaped our lives and our modes of caring for one another in community.

“Practicing Care in Rural Congregations and Communities” is an essential book for all who want to understand and to care faithfully. The authors challenge the whole church to learn from the wisdom that comes out of rural and small-town communities. Moreover, they issue a powerful reminder of why it is crucial for the body of Christ to maintain a presence and witness there.

Read more here.

Friends, I recently attended the 2014 NEXT Church Conference in Minneapolis, MN, and I was inspired by rich worship, creative ideas, and heartfelt testimonies.  Here is a testimony from a college student, Nathan Are, about the power of the church in his life.

Sarah Hart is another person who loves and serves God through music.  She has written and recorded many songs, and some of them have been recorded by other artists, such as Amy Grant.  You can sample her music at spiritandsong.com, and learn more about her at her website: www.sarahhart.com.  Print editions of many her songs, and arrangements for choirs, with parts for various instruments, are available at OCP.org.

Those who have been making music with me in Morton Church’s Music for Little Friends program may recognize her as one of the singers on some of the CDs that we use for our class.

Here is a youtube video in which Sarah sings “Come, True Light” for Pope Francis at a large gathering at the Vatican.  At the end of the video, she meets the pope and gives him copies of her CDs.

 

 

'CuTe BaBy' photo (c) 2006, 44444 U.A.E - license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/I firmly believe that children best learn to worship by worshiping alongside caring, mentoring adults.  Recently I heard Kara Root, pastor of Lake Nokomis Presbyterian Church in Minneapolis, describe the creative ministry her small congregation is doing with children and families.  Here is a link to a post that includes excerpts from the church’s pew inserts about this ministry.  “Why We Welcome Little Children to Worship.”   Included are helpful suggestions to make worship a good experience for everyone.  Thanks so much to Kara and the Lake Nokomis congregation!

 

'Echoes' photo (c) 2009, Gabor Dvornik - license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/Meditative music helps me slow down and get quiet.  Click this link to hear a song called “Echo” by English singer and songwriter, Karen Money. You will hear allusions to the anointing of Jesus.  You can hear more of her work via streaming  here at her My Space page, and you can find it on iTunes and at Amazon.

'Interior, St David's' photo (c) 2009, Christine McIntosh - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/Union Presbyterian Seminary in Richmond, Virginia has announced a conference for people who have been in small church pastorates for a long time.  It’s titled Staying Fresh in a Long Small Church Pastorate, and it will take place March 24-26, 2015.  That’s a year away, but I am intrigued.  The leader is the Rev. Chris Stewart, and Presbyterian pastor who has served the same two small congregations since 1978.

Here is a link to the conference infomation: http://www.upsem.edu/img/leadership_pdf/Staying_Fresh.pdf

'All of them' photo (c) 2009, Michael Carian - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/Here is a link to an article by Christopher Schilling, a young candidate for ministry in the PC(USA).  It caught my eye because he encourages young adults to give smaller, older congregations the chance to welcome them and care for them in community.  Its title is Creating Communities Between Younger Adults and Older Congregations.  The author speaks an encouraging word to those of us whose congregations are made up mostly of older people.  He has experienced a warm welcome in a number of these older congregations in Tidewater, Virginia, where he is completing a hospital chaplaincy residency.

Schilling is a single, 29-year-old, temporary transplant from the west coast, with no connections in eastern Virginia.   He has been deeply touched by the invitations to community that he has received in these congregations.  He urges older congregations not to be ashamed of this fact, and to be themselves as they welcome younger people into community.

He concludes with a word to younger people who are seeking a worshiping community: “don’t be afraid to visit a smaller congregation predominately of older members because you think they will be too different from you.  Because you just may be surprised by how those in other generations not only think, but are looking for the same thing our generation is looking for:  a sense of belonging.”

Thank you, Christopher Schilling!

*****

You might also like these posts:

Why Older People Are a Blessing to the Church

Give a small church the chance to nurture your children.

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