Jumpers, Hampers and Champing

by Michael Ford last modified 04 Dec, 2018 10:05 AM

Last month saw the last Diocesan Rural Ministry Residential, and new Rural Field Officer Canon Richard Hancock was on hand to tell us all about them.

In my new role as one of the four new Rural Field Officers in the diocese, I have now been able to attend two Rural Residentials with fellow rural clergy. The first was the Sherborne Residential led by Bishop Karen and the Rural Hope Team which took place at Park Place.

The Second was the Ramsbury Residential led by the Archdeacons Alan and Sue along with the Rural Hope Team. I was warned that Park Place may require an extra jumper, but on this occasion both were comfortable. However, being a seasoned attender at conferences, like the Revd Roland Wise I always take a hamper to such events.

As a newcomer to these, my first impression was how refreshing it was to find a Diocese and its senior staff team actively engaging with those at the coal face of rural ministry. The twenty-four hour programme from 2pm to 2pm fits well as this allowed me time to deal with parish issues before setting off for the event and then being able to have some time to catch up with things upon my return.

The program for both events had some inspirational presentations including a good biblical study lead by Rev Dr Anna-Claar Thomasson-Rosingh on the theme of ‘My barn is full, Superabundance of Biblical meaning for Rural Contexts’. This included a doctrinal introduction to Word and Spirit which prompted much discussion based on people’s rural perspectives.

Other excellent presentations were given by Rev David Baldwin and Rev Jo Neary from the Beaminster Team showing how they were attempting to redefine rural ministry from church to community. David made a very thought-provoking comment saying “Our theology of growth has moved from bums on seats, money on the plate to deepening relationships with God and growing community wherever God wants”

Finally, we had a presentation on ‘Champing’ with the simple concept of camping in ancient churches by Neil Best of the Churches Conservation Trust. www.champing.co.uk

However, the real secret of these events is the sharing that takes place between those who attend. The residentials create a conducive atmosphere where ideas, experiences and stories both good and bad can be shared openly with one another.

It’s here that the real learning and inspiration takes place. This cross-fertilisation builds confidence to try new things and not to be afraid if they don’t work out the first time. Everyone I spoke too at both events had found the residentials helpful and supportive in their ministry.

The Rural Hope team are now looking at plans for next year and in particular how laypeople can also be involved in this shared learning experience. Two opportunities will be THRIVE learning communities which launches in March, and the Rural Conference in September.

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