I continue to be impressed and inspired by Jung and Agria’s text: Rural Congregational Studies: A Case for Good Shepherds and especially with chapter 5 on leadership.
Two words define this chapter for me: process and listening. Both are skills and a mindset. I believe that their point that rural ministry requires a patience for process that is accomplished by listening is spot on.
They quote a summary of important qualities/characteristics that rural pastors need to develop and cultivate from a coalition of Iowa pastors. (Jung and Agria, page 93)
a. [help] parishioners understand relationships,
b. [help] them clarify their options
c. [help] them process change.
I have personally experienced these things in my current ministry. Regarding B and C, this has occurred in our relocation efforts. Our church sits on a street corner here in Kendallville and has been at this location throughout its life since it started in the 1940’s. The facility has evolved over the years but elements of the original home building remain.
Not long after I came, I heard from several different persons about the building. So in my annual report at the end of my first year, I suggested they pick 5 people they trust to examine all of the options regarding facilities.
After year one of study, it was narrowed down to either adding on or relocating. After year two of study, an almost 100% vote to relocate was made. That was in September 2003.
Then after an almost 5 year search and several offers, we bought land. Now we are in a process to present an initial design to the congregation for approval and a new capital funds campaign.
It has been, at times, painstakingly slow to me. But, the congregation has strongly embraced the relocation process and are just as excited as I am!
Dear Mr. President,
I appreciated your pointed and visionary inaugural address last week. I think that Dr. King would be please with what we heard. In fact, I heard Dr. King at several points as you spoke.
I listened to it from the perspective of a rural pastor and rural citizen. I was especially listening to how your goals, both economic and, for lack of a better term, ‘community building’ would empower the rural parts of our nation.
At one point you said this, “For everywhere we look, there is work to be done. The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act – not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth. We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together. We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology’s wonders to raise health care’s quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. And all this we will do.”
Mr. President, do not forget that the rural towns and counties of our nation can both benefit and assist in this important goal. We need new roads and bridges; we need to harness the sun and the wind; we need to build partnerships with national and international business because we have great workers here as well; we need to educate and re-train the people in places like Noble County who are losing and have lost their jobs. We have a role to play in the renewal and revitalization of our nation. Don’t forget us.
Mr. President you also said this, “For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus – and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.”
Please remember Mr. President, that rural America is not monochrome but kodachrome. There are people of all faiths and languages in our small towns and rural counties. In our own, I know that there are Latino, Hispanic, and Yemeni as well as black and white. There are conservatives, moderates, and progressives ‘out here’ so please remember that we struggle to be a community for all.
Mr. President, do not forget that rural people are people of hope, faith, and trust in God and in our nation. Keep us in the loop as we move forward under your leadership.
I have renamed the blog, Reflections on and about Rural Life because that is the direction some of my writing has taken. I will continue to report on the work of Hometown Competitiveness here in Noble County but also rural community life as well.
Finally, as I continue to think about being missional, I am reminded of what Jesus said in Luke 4:18 and 19 (New Living Translation)
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
for he has appointed me to preach Good News to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim
that captives will be released,
that the blind will see,
that the downtrodden will be freed from their oppressors,
19and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.”
This is a missional statement – healing, releasing, redeeming, empowering that focuses on the establishment of the Kingdom of God through the redemptive work of Christ Jesus.