Bishop Rylands calls for a flourishing rural Church

17 October 2014

ARTHUR RANK CENTRE

RURAL mission is "high on the agenda" of the Church, the Bishop of Shrewsbury, the Rt Revd Mark Rylands, has said after an ecumenical conference on countryside ministry, Germinate!, held on Saturday.

Speaking on Monday, Bishop Rylands said that the conference, held at the Arthur Rank Centre, Warwickshire, featured representatives from all wings of the C of E, as well as other denominations.

"Rural churches and rural growth is high on the agenda here," he said. "I have found that among Christian leaders across the country. It was a really diverse conference - Evangelicals through to Catholics."

At the conference, after a video address from the Archbishop of Canterbury, Bishop Rylands gave the keynote speech. He said that God desired "a flourishing rural Church for the sake of the rural community".

On Monday, he said that he had encouraged rural leaders to allow some initiatives to die if they were no longer fruitful, so that they could focus on projects that were actually working. "God's work is not always about a straight line going upwards," he said. "It's about death and resurrection."

Messy Church, he said, was a good example of a small thing that was growing rapidly in rural areas and having a significant impact. He also warned smaller rural churches not to indulge in an inferiority complex because of their size.

"Small churches think: 'We can't do everything, we can't do effective mission [because] we are not big churches.' But that's not true. We often have congregations of a size where it is easy to do more discipleship."

He said that local ecumenical relationships were important in rural areas. "Often, we [different churches] have different gifts, and it does make sense to work together in mission purposes and ministry."

Among the topics discussed at the conference were how to run a successful Messy Church; building relationships with families on the fringes of congregations; creative use of church buildings; and becoming better at sharing leadership when priests are given responsibility for a growing number of parishes.

Bishop Rylands said: "Being grouped together with other churches means that the rural Church is learning to model shared leadership and to pioneer it for the rest of the Church."

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