Resourcing Rural Ministry
Practical Insights for Mission
BRF 2015, Simon Martin with Caroline Hewlett,
Rona Orme and Becky Payne. Edited by Jill Hopkinson
This book is long overdue as it brings many of the resources for mission from the Arthur Rank Centre - which has resourced rural ministry and mission for 40 years – into one place. This is very welcome for clergy and lay people alike and from across the churches in England, especially as it is said that 1 in 6 of the population live in rural areas.
Written by national advisors and local practitioners alike, Resourcing Rural Ministry does exactly what it says, by providing a wide variety of ideas, resources, case studies and comment for anyone concerned with the rural context of mission.
Apart from all the helpful information, what I like best about this book is the layout. Under straight forward titles and in short sections it is easy to find what you might be looking for. Whether it be Messy Church, Multi-Church Ministry, or rural aspects of Ministerial Training, it also includes examples of more unusual ministry e.g. Forest Church and various aspects of theological reflection e.g. Robert Warren’s diagram of Doing, Being and Living.
Resourcing Rural Ministry draws on various traditions including monastic and Fresh Expressions, as well as quoting examples from different denominations. It is a compendium or ‘one stop shop’ for those who want to address the challenges of the rural church – especially practically.
As a practical guide, some may say Resourcing Rural Ministry is light in terms of political and social critique, and that it could have drawn more on major works on ministry and mission before it. I would say its strength lies in covering the contemporary ground brilliantly and with just the right amount of information and reflection to encourage every reader in the task of developing understanding, discipleship and rural ministry to get on with the task better informed.
All insights are positive, and difficult topics are not ignored. This is well illustrated in a quote from page 42: ‘Multi-church ministry brings with it a great many joys and opportunities, in working with different communities and congregations. It also has its own tensions and complications and can be stressful for lay and ordained alike. We know that it is possible for some churches in rural multi-church groups to grow and to do so consistently over several years. We also know that many rural congregations have reduced in size and others maintain regular numbers attending’. What follows this quote is a chapter exploring the issues, with a pragmatic approach, based on research.
In short, this is a book for everyone in rural ministry. Full of ideas and encouragement, notes and anecdotes, resources and analysis that has been ‘rural-proofed’ to be relevant and helpful. Drawing on resources from the Arthur Rank Centre e.g. Country Way (p39) and Journey to Faith (p110), it draws on 40 years’ experience and provides the reader with a wonderful overview, guide and mission resource all in one place.
The book can be ordered from BRF: http://www.brfonline.org.uk/9780857462626/