#ruralpresence – Rural #resource #churches

(this post was 1st published on the Rural Presence Blog)

Can you send me and support me?   The question came from a faithful children’s worker in a market town resource church.  
This woman got the idea – and felt that God was calling her to leave the large market town church she’d attended and the work she had been doing in order to serve the parish church in her village. 

She was asking her home church – this resource church – to help by releasing her from her current role and mentoring her as a leader in the church in the village where she lived.

If you thought resource churches were just for urban contexts, think again.

And if you’re uncertain about what a resource church really is, then how about this view from the Diocese of Leicester: “it is expected that, in every sense, Resourcing Churches will “give away” for more than they “receive” for the sake of the Kingdom of God.  Resourcing Churches will embody the values of generosity, partnership, audacity and humility.”

At a conference organised by Jill Hopkinson, National Rural Officer for the Church of England, the potential for resource churches in rural areas was explored.  Presenters told the story and reflected on the theology of established and very new rural resource churches from around the country and within and beyond the CofE.

Highlights included reflections from Barry Hill, Diocese of Leicester Resource Church Enabler and Team Rector in the Market Harborough Team, who provided the anecdote at the start of this post.  Barry outlined the Diocese’s approach to resourcing churches, where the expectation is that these will largely not be new churches, but form the next stage of development for existing churches and will be in a mix of city centre, town and rural  locations.  Joining a six year learning community, those designated as Resourcing Churches will receive a range of additional resource, including an associate vicar, second curate and mission apprentices.  The broad expectation is that these churches will plant or transplant a new congregation or fresh expression of church every 18 to 24 months.

The potential for resource churches in market towns like this was underlined in the presentation by David Jennings, Head of Funding at the Church Commissioners.

Also there was a skip through the data from newly appointed Church Army head of research Tim Ling, considering the Day of Small Things research on Fresh Expressions in the CofE, along with the question of how to define rural (the current approach used by government – rural-urban classification for output areas – appears to offer a helpful direction for researchers and others).

Many presenters were at pains to stress that resource churches are not about colonising or brand development – and that there is no requirement for resource churches to be charismatic-evangelical in spirituality – this, after all, is the stereotype.

Another helpful insight was provided by a team from the very new Potting Shed Church, an emerging resource church in the Southwell and Nottingham Diocese. Trustee Emilie Rathbone and Pioneer Curate Ant Dixon outlined progress so far. This is a church that currently meets in a field (in a marquee)- you couldn’t get much more rural than that. 

Alongside the monthly gathering (deliberate choice of term), there are weekly meetings of the core group of Christians involved and plans to roll out Alpha early next year and to recruit a worship leader to work in (as it were) the Potting Shed itself and for neighbouring churches and the wider community. A key value in the beginnings of the Potting Shed is the quality of engagement with local churches and church leaders: from the outset the team has been meeting and praying with local clergy and other church leaders about the way forward.

The day ended on a high with National Mission and Evangelism Advisor Rachel Jordan-Wolf reminding us about the output of the Talking Jesus research: 36% of adults come to faith through conversations with Christians…. and with the helpful analogy that we are all tripadvisors for Jesus.

Background image created by Jannoon028 – Freepik.com

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