Over the past couple weeks on the blog, we’ve been celebrating the beautiful diversity of Western Canada and some of the ways to move forward in church planting in rural, urban and suburban settings. Here’s an interesting piece from Joyce Sasse of the Canadian Rural Church Network on some of the particular opportunities for spiritual development we may find in rural areas. ~ Cailey
The Spiritual Values of Rural People
By Joyce Sasse, CRCN– CiRCLe M Newsletter
While rural people would not readily be able to enumerate the following, my studies in the Rural Church Movement have led me to believe these values are held in common by rural people around the world.
Awareness of the Presence of God
Creation is recognized as a gift from God by those who feel they work as co-partners with God. This is so integral to their lives, “God-talk” for many grassroots people is not seen to be necessary.
Respect for land and landscape
It is as if one is connected to the Creation by an umbilical cord. When the land suffers from drought or pollution (or some other degradation), the pain is felt in the people. When the brilliant colors of an autumn sky burst forth, the beauty is contagious. In the face of nature’s destructive powers, the inclination is to look for glimmers of hope.
Centrality of Community
“[The rural church’s] strength is in knowing we exist for the community, and the community values our existence.”1
In the extended community beyond church buildings and denominational labels, many community members try to tend the needs of each-other. Given insightful leadership, they have the capacity to reach across what were once religious, age, gender, sex and ethnic biases.
Paradox: Being Independent, but Aware of the Need for Interdependence
The request is to respect my privacy, but when there is a major emergency everyone gives of what they can to help the people in crisis. When a home burns or a farmer is injured at harvest time, the amount of support offered is incredible.
Awareness of the Prevalence of Pain in Our Midst
“Be kinder than usual for everyone is fighting some kind of battle.”2
Laments and ways of acknowledging and expressing grief, prayer support and funding are much appreciated. Letting others know about pain experienced by members of the community is a delicate but important matter.
Diversity is Essential (socially as in agriculture)
It is recognized that the input of “others” is necessary if the community is to garner fresh vitality. Consider finding a place for the new daughter-in-law, the newcomer from the city or from another country. Great generosity is extended to the “new minister” as the community finds a place for him/her in their midst.
Believe in a Strong Work Ethic
In the past it was often noted that urban leaders came from a rural background where they had learned leadership within the community. Through programs such as 4-H, leadership skills are taught at an early age. A heritage-gift for children in small communities is helping instill in them the desire to “do well”.
Story-telling is the Primary Means of Communication
“Telling our story helps us make sense of our lives.”3
As one gains fluency in expressing their stories, these cultural values are more easily passed on to succeeding generations and to new-comers. In the rural church context a budget presentation that tells the story of the congregation’s values and aspirations trumps any presentation made via charts and graphs.
Alright, friends in rural Canada, Do you agree with Sasse’s assessment of rural life? Are there other assets you can think of when it comes to church planting in a rural context? Share your thoughts on this blog or email firstname.lastname@example.org
1 Robyn McPhail, New Zealand
2 Source Anonymous
3 Source Anonymous