Friday, October 15, 2010

rural fresh expressions: resourcing Yorke Peninsula

Today has been a rich day, preparing to lead a camp, helping 10 rural congregations who are coming together to think about their mission. Here ‘ss how it is shaping up.

1. What is church

What is church? Why it exists? What is its purpose?

Use video clip from Yes Minister What does the hospital exist?

2. Four images of church (taken from some material by George Lings)

  • institution
  • managerial
  • horticultural
  • relational/familial

For each one – group discussion – Why does church exist? Divide the group in two and invite them to answer from perspective of lay and clergy?

3. Rural fresh expressions of church

video – What is a fresh expression?

It is not a new expression.
It is not a townie thing
It is not saying what existing church is wrong
It is not a bridging project to real church.

I will then give them 14 rural types of fresh expressions I have hunted down. Each has an example, to give flesh. I’m hoping this encourage with it’s diversity.

  • Alternative worship
  • Base ecclesial communities
  • Cafe church
  • Church from community initiatives
  • Midweek congregations
  • Multiple congregations
  • Network focused churches
  • School-based churches
  • Seeker services
  • Traditional church plants
  • Youth congregations
  • Traditional forms of church inspiring new interest
  • New monasticism – Northumbria community
  • Festivals

4. Rural Challenges

We will then kick the tires around 10 rural challenges, from this resource, by David Muir, a pioneer minister in Devon.

  1. Do some serious homework on the social realities in your area. The countryside is hugely varied, so beware of generalisations about what ‘country people’ are like.
  2. Do assume that countryside people are well disposed to the Christian faith. Most are. So think hard before using language like ‘becoming a Christian’.
  3. If you are new to the countryside, get involved. Traditional countryside people will always see you as an in-comer, but it will only take a couple of years to be accepted as an ‘OK in-comer’.
  4. Beware of the idolatry of nice village life. This is a temptation for the traditional inhabitants of the countryside and for in-comers seeking their rural idyll.
  5. A community centred on its own well-being is a form of selfishness. The church must challenge this rather than collude with it to gain acceptance.
  6. Support the church building. It is a social symbol that continues to have some Christian opportunities. Attending funerals will open some doors.
  7. Accept that we have lost the battle for weekly public worship. ‘Public’ worship was a Christendom idea and we need to let go of it. Think about how else to give expression to a living faith community.
  8. Support the vicar. People still want clergy for baptisms, weddings and (most of all) funerals. So support ministers in their traditional roles, and find ways to link their ministries to whatever fresh expression of church you feel called to develop.
  9. Refuse to be trapped by geography. Countryside people travel, often quite long distances, to things they really want to go to. So think wide. Doing something ‘just for our little community’ is killing the countryside socially.
  10. Think ‘sustainability’ rather than ‘funding’. Evangelism by largesse is another Christendom idea that needs to die. It fosters dependency rather than initiative. Grants run out. So keep it simple. Start what the group can sustain.
Posted by steve at 04:19 PM

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

faith outback: planting rural fresh expressions

The feature story in the Australian Outback magazine (June 2010) is titled Faith:Belief in the bush. It’s pretty hefty – 22 pages – and explores how people have coped with the adversity of recent drought. There’s an appeal to a faith rooted in land and that is sensitive to indigenous issues. And all as the lead article in a commercial magazine. Secular Australia? Really?

There’s some challenges to theology.

For rural Australia to succeed and grow we need people who are prepared to take risks and try different approaches. Faith can be a huge driver for change. Equally it can be a form of avoidance. There are some who put all their faith in God or industry leaders to fix the problems. Having faith in yourself, your family and your community means accepting that you are accountable. Cheryl Philips.

There’s a nice nod to fresh expressions – rural style – including the rise of lay ministry, discussion groups and home churches.

For rural people, having their lives enriched spiritually through their relationships with others is where it’s at. If that leads to going to church, then that’s an added benefit. The church now wants to be a legitimate working part of the community. Ross Neville, Uniting church rural consultant.

A few weekends ago I taught at a lay training event called Grow and Go. My topic was Mission-shaped community. To break up the monotony of Steve Taylor talking for 8 hours, each person was given an overhead projector acetate. Each acetate had the following headings:

  • A new insight:
  • A new idea and/or resource:
  • An inspirational story:

And I spread a whole lot of resources around the table – short articles, booklets, a few computers with websites to browse. The group had 30 minutes to browse, read and fill in the acetate if they found a new insight, idea or story. And then we had a great reporting back session – various ones sharing with the group a resource they had discovered. The most popular resource were those I dug out on rural ministry. Like the Grove Books – a veritable treasure trove – for example some of these.  Rural ministry in Australia dying? Really?

Posted by steve at 08:38 PM