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Tasting Ministry down on the Farm

by Michael Ford last modified 03 Sep, 2019 04:33 PM

An annual scheme to give Curates a "taste" of rural ministry took place this Summer. And it began down on the farm.

In our Diocese, 90% of parishes and 50% of the population are rural, and so those involved in our Rural Hope Programme believe this placement scheme will encourage those new to ministry, as well as those in training to become priests to explore a calling to serve as incumbents in Rural Communities.

This year 10 curates from the Diocese, along with with 3 Ordinands from Ripon College Cuddesdon took part in the new Placement Scheme. A highlight of this scheme was when they joined members of the Rural Hope Team for a very special day out to launch the project.

As guests of the Revd Richard Kirlew, Rural Officer for Dorset, they got a taste of the reality of life on a dairy farm.

The group visited Westhayes Farm at Caundle Marsh - just in time for milking!

Westhayes has 350 dairy cows, with calves, along with a collection of pigs, goats and a few donkeys. The milk goes towards making good quality cheese and the group got a chance to get a close up view of milking time and even to help out.

Clare Phillips, our Diocesan Rural Ministry Development Officer, said:

"Everyone had a great time seeing the reality of farming close up and personal.

"They discovered it can be a relentless task - twice a day every day of the year, taking a couple of hours every time and takes dedication and love. But as one of the dairyman commented, they couldn’t imagine doing anything else.

"In fact he very recently got married at the small and beautiful church which is surrounded by the farm itself, went on Honeymoon and said he really missed the cows!"

The link between the rural church and farming was explored further when the visitors discovered that the owner of Westhayes is also the parish's Churchwarden.

Clare explained:

"He told them that for him and his family living and working on the land in such close proximity to the church is a privilege and forms an integral part of their lives."

For the Rural Hope team, the day also gave the opportunity to gather those on placement together and share experiences and thoughts on rural placements, as well as having a useful and thought provoking discussion on Rural Ministry - its unique theology and the joys, and difficulties of living and working in often large rural Benefices - with Jill Hopkinson, Tutor in Rural Ministry at Sarum College.

Clergy in the countryside continue to be an important focus in their communities and it is hoped that by investing in identifying, nurturing and training rural church leaders, those on this placement scheme can be inspired to work with local congregations, to take hold of mission opportunities and move into church growth – in numbers, depth and impact.

Looking back on this first day, Clare said it had been a huge success.

"Hopefully it has inspired a few of our Curates to explore a vocation to life in our Rural Benefices, just don’t forget the wellies!"

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