Heavenly Feet forward in rural mission
Elizabeth Clark, the National Rural Officer for Methodist and United Reformed Churches, had a good trip to Ponsanooth, near Truro, Cornwall, last weekend. On Saturday 11 Feb she took part in Heavenly Feet, a day conference for those involved in rural mission organised by the Discipleship and Ministries Learning Network of the Methodist Church but attended by around 40 lay and ordained participants from across the ecumenical spectrum.
Elizabeth’s key note presentation encouraged rural churches to feel positive about themselves and outlined some of the Germinate: The Arthur Rank Centre’s key resources. There was a choice of workshops and Elizabeth led one on Germinate Enterprise to encourage churches to run the program for the benefit of their communities. Her second workshop introduced people to Equipping for Rural Mission as a way of beginning to think strategically about their mission.
The event was held at Ponsanooth Village Hall which featured in a recent edition of Country Way magazine – you can read more about its recent development into a vital community resource here.
By Revd Dr Stephen Skuce, Methodist Church in Ireland Northwestern District Superintendent
What does reconciliation look like in a rural community that has been attacked for simply being the people we are? The answer is ‘complicated’.
The Northwestern district of the Methodist Church in Ireland includes the full border between the two jurisdictions, with about a quarter of our district in the Republic of Ireland. Most of the northern churches are fairly close to the border.
You will know perhaps of the Enniskillen Remembrance Day bomb, and the Omagh bombing. Both included our members among the dead and injured. The Warrenpoint attack in which 18 soldiers died is at one side of our district and on the western edge of the district, Lord Mountbatten and three others were murdered. Dozens of our members have been killed and countless others attacked, threatened and so on. The memorial tablets in our border churches sometimes refer to 1914-18 or 1939-45, but all too often refer to those of us murdered far more recently.
That was then, but still also now. The long shadow of our history still affects us. Brexit and its clear implications significantly jeopardise peace. We want to move on, but Brexit pulls us back.
I currently live in Strabane/Lifford. The two parts of the town are separated by a river that is also an international border. Brexit has made that border harder again.
It’s hard to focus on reconciliation when you live near the border and experience systematic attacks over generations. We are far from claiming a monopoly of suffering. That is sadly a widely shared experience but is sharpened in rural areas where we know each other. We work with each other. We farm alongside each other, lend each other equipment and buy our livestock from each other.
We may be educated separately, largely socialise separately and follow some different sports, but we are neighbours. So, when we have been attacked, it was by those who live close by. We live beside neighbours who somehow saw nothing and knew nothing about an attack. These aren’t distant wars. This is over the hedge. Reconciliation is a decades long struggle.
Methodists have been outstanding in the search for peace. The work and price paid by Gordon Wilson after his injury and death of Marie, his daughter, in the Enniskillen bombing is perhaps well known. A Methodist minister, Harold Good, was one of two witnesses to the IRA’s decommissioning of their weapons and the UVF announced their ceasefire in a Belfast Methodist church.
We’re trying our best. On the same day as the Enniskillen bombing the border village of Pettigo/Tullyhommon was also targeted by a bomb aimed at the children gathering for the Remembrance Day parade at the Methodist church. That bomb failed to go off but the legacy of the attempted attack on the Protestant children of that community, all part of a systematic ethnic cleansing campaign, is hard. But today we enjoy a shared community building in the Methodist Church that is used by all.
The price of peace is very high. We have been required to let murderers walk free. We have to stop searching for justice and accept government from those who targeted us. We are willing to pay that price because we are Christian people of hope and a future. It will get better, although it’s not guaranteed. But it’s even harder to overcome barriers when you live on the border.
Processions and walks of witness have always played a part in the life of God’s people. One example of this recorded in the Old Testament is when King David paraded into the city of Jerusalem with the Ark of the Covenant, playing joyful music on harps and cymbals (1 Chronicles 15). In the New Testament we’re told that Jesus rode on a donkey as he too processed, with his friends, into Jerusalem as the festival of Passover began.
One of the most rural circuits in the Methodist Connexion, Camelford and Week St Mary’s 17 churches are served by a great bunch of local preachers, a Circuit Administrator, a Families’ and Children’s Lay Worker and a Community Outreach Worker, along with a generous Supernumerary Minister who cares for three churches.
The Denby Dale Centre (DDC), a Fresh Expressions success story, is nestled next to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. Although the Centre is most closely linked to the Clayton West and Denby Dale Methodist Church Circuit, it works closely with churches of all denominations in the area and has been running a series of projects to reduce loneliness and improving quality of life for the last twelve years.
Germinate Leadership is for lay and ordained leaders in rural churches who have already displayed some creative and entrepreneurial flair in ministry and are keen to develop themselves and their skills.
In order to get the greatest possible benefit from your participation in Germinate Leadership you will need to ensure that you are available for all the programme elements listed above, as far as is reasonably possible. If you think this may be an issue please contact the Germinate Leadership team for an informal chat.
Germinate Leadership is for lay and ordained leaders in rural churches who have already displayed some creative and entrepreneurial flair in ministry and are keen to develop themselves and their skills. Every part of the Germinate Leadership programme is rooted in the opportunities and challenges of ministry in rural contexts and fosters a collaborative, ecumenical approach and a culture of continuing personal and professional development. It is expected that all participants, both lay and ordained, will leave as creative, entrepreneurial and strategic leaders, better equipped to engage effectively with local communities and encourage churches to be an effective Christian presence.
Borderlands Rural Chaplaincy (BRC) is an ecumenical partnership between the Diocese of Hereford and the Wolverhampton and Shrewsbury District of the Methodist Church set up to offer pastoral care and outreach to farmers, farming families and agricultural communities principally within Hereford and South Shropshire.
Jo Hibbard, Trustee of the Churches Visitor & Tourism Association and Director of Engagement for The Methodist Church in Britain, explores the value to mission and evangelism of opening our churches to visitors.
‘Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, 52 weeks of the year, church buildings proclaim “God is in the midst”,’ asserts Canon John Brown, Chair of Churches Visitor & Tourism Association (CVTA). ‘Church buildings are far more in the forefront of mission than any congregation or evangelist!’
Appointed to Hawes in 2010, and discovering that the town Silver Prize band practised regularly in the Market Hall, it seemed I had no option but to join their number as something I could become part of, away from church-related activities. Having played a trumpet in the High School wind band many years ago, and then spent a few months in an amateur dance band early on in my working life, I presumed Yorkshire brass banding would have some common ground – even when I had to pick up a cornet for the first time and ‘fill-in’ on the back row, as best I could!