Released for Mission: Growing the rural church
(GS Misc 1092)
This research report, published today, captures the authentic grassroots voices of lay people and clergy working in rural multi-church groups. Their stories tell of the current realities of mission and ministry in the countryside: the creative ideas and opportunities; the complexities and difficulties.
Commissioned by the Rural Affairs Group of General Synod, Released for Mission and the accompanying paper GS1985, set out priorities for changes that need to be made by the national church, dioceses, deaneries, multi-church groups and parishes in order to release capacity and energy for mission and growth.
This research is a starting point. Further work urgently needs to be done to continue to identify and share existing good practice in all areas of the life of rural churches and to ensure that the recommendations made in Released for Mission are implemented quickly. The Rural Affairs Group looks forward to working with the Arthur Rank Centre and ecumenical partners to achieve this.
The Arthur Rank Centre strongly supports the 2015 research report Released for Mission. ‘It is absolutely essential that the Church of England implements the recommendations in Released for Mission,’ said CEO Jerry Marshall. ‘The next decade is a make or break time for continuing rural ministry. Thankfully some rural dioceses are already moving in the right direction.’
The report points to the importance of the rural church (two-thirds of parishes) and to many areas of success, particularly around fresh expressions and Messy Church. A statistical analysis indicates that there is no clear link between growth and the number of parishes in a multi-church group, but lay leadership and an intentional focus on mission are crucial.
Priorities identified by the report include:
- Building a culture of discipleship
- Envisioning, enabling and equipping the ministry of lay people
- Effective training for lay and clergy for the complexity of leading multiple churches
- Simplification of governance and legal structures
- Facilitating creative ecumenical partnerships.
The report outlines findings from a major research project led by Canon Dr Jill Hopkinson, the National Rural Officer for the Church of England.
‘Rural churches of all denominations are not always aware that they can and do engage in mission,’ said Revd Elizabeth Clark, National Rural Officer for the Methodist Church and the United Reformed Church. ‘This report highlights what is happening whilst at the same time pointing out the challenges that exist, particularly for Anglican Churches. Many Methodist and URC Churches face similar constraints. My hope is that we will look for ways of tackling these obstacles together since ecumenism is a mission imperative.’