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
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
"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
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
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
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."