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Posts Tagged ‘rural ministry’

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.

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I grew up on a farm in Spotsylvania County, Virginia, and in a small rural church. I’m proud to serve in another small rural church.  Recently I re-read an article by Baptist pastor Gary Farley entitled “Jesus Was a Country Preacher,” and though it’s been around a while, it’s still good food for thought for those of us who serve in country congregations.  Click on the title to read it.

I also recently listened to the audiobook edition of country singer Clay Walker’s new book Jesus Was A Country Boy, an extended reflection on the themes he explores in a song by the same title.  Walker meditates on many of the stories of Jesus and points out a correlation between the teachings of Jesus and the values Walker learned growing up in the country, such as generosity and simplicity.  Despite a minor theological quibble in a couple of places, I enjoyed Walker’s meditations and can see them as fodder for devotionals and sermons on the texts he looks at.  He also briefly mentions the ministry of rural congregations and urges people to get involved in their projects, such as food pantries to feed the hungry.  I’m thinking about writing to him to ask him to share some more thoughts about that.  I wonder if he goes to a country church when he’s home on his farm.

Here’s a youtube video of his song:

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Farming is such a noble and essential calling, serving the wellbeing of the planet and its inhabitants.  It is often painful to be a farmer these days.  You can steward the land and water well, take good care of God’s creatures, and, with God’s help, produce abundantly–and still be in danger of going under because prices are so low.  Many factors contribute to the struggle.  Whether it’s debt, or problems finding dependable labor, or pressure from neighbors who don’t understand what farming is all about, or something else, farming is tough.

I came across the National Catholic Rural Life Conference website, and I discovered this prayer and more there:

Prayer for Farm Families in Crisis

O God, they call it “farm crisis!”

Our costs are up and prices for our produce down.

The loan is due and there’s no money to buy this year’s

seed.

We feel alone, embarrassed in our need, like failures in our

efforts to farm.

The harder we work, the worse it seems to get.

There’s no laughter or joy anymore, just a constant

struggle to believe, to hope and to keep trying.

Strengthen us, God.

Keep us gentle and yet firm, generous yet open to receive.

Let us see your face in those who want to help and don’t

know how.

Grant us perseverance and openness to your will.

Hold our family close as we do our best to know and act

according to your will in the days ahead.

We ask this through Christ our Lord.

Amen.

Please remember to pray for our farmers!

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