A round up of good news from delegates at the 2020 National Rural Officers confe

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The comments below were recorded at the 2020 Gathering of Rural Officers from across the country and prepared by Rev'd Dr Mark Betson.

Further feedback from the conference will be added later.

What are we doing? (part 1, good ideas)

Rob Walrond, Bath and Wells Diocese – Farmers Day at Somerset County Cricket club with 500 farmers plus FCN and RABI presence.

John Owen, Portsmouth Diocese – developing an Alms-house Trust into a social provider of affordable housing.

Peter Hooper – Leicester Diocese – developing the deanery. Making it a Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO) for contracts and purchases. Clergy are employed with the expectation of having a cross deanery role. Critical mass enables particular work to go on such as Eco-Church.

Jenny Edmans, Oxford Diocese – Bucks’ County Show. Church Tea Tent – give away tea and cake.

Cindy Rigney, Blackburn Diocese – Event for curates to consider Rural Ministry.

Ian Morris, Welsh Methodist Church – Royal Welsh Show, Church Tent and ministry around the showground. Ag. Chaplaincy to N. Wales around five livestock markets.

Lorraine Brown, Methodist Peak Park – speed sharing of good ideas about radical hospitality.

Janet Nichols, Chelmsford Diocese – ‘4 or More’ churches aiming at group support for clergy, 2 rural conferences: One on buildings including architects, insurers, police and practical advice and one on trying to attract people to rural ministry. Buildings worked well, but rural ministry one not so well in terms of getting people to the event. However, those who came had an amazing day.

Penny Dobbin, Devon Rural Churches Forum – they are a group of about 40 people in total including police, rural community council, churches, academics, FCN and farmers. Topics include: rural worship, farming and the environment for example. One idea they are working on is a toolkit for mission communities/multi-parish benefices.

George Frost, East Anglia – work with FCN, YANA and the successful Rural Coffee Caravan.

Richard Kirlew, Dorset (Salisbury Diocese) – Ag chaplains support for Shaftsbury after the livestock market closed linking farmers with the deanery.

Netherlands delegates – Village Church Movement.


What are we doing? (part 2, issues and comments)

Issue with clergy stress in rural areas.

Marks of a fragile church – research work by Anne Lawson (Cheshire): problems with finance and filling posts; lack of volunteers; lack of time for clergy; rising age; pressure; community relations.

How do we identify a vision?

Do we need to incorporate change management into training for clergy?

Brexit: people are divided but it’s difficult to bring them back together when the debate is ongoing. The best way to be prepared is to make sure you have good links to all major support services to help with any who have problems as a result of Brexit.

Not trying to compete with other churches in the area but using distinctive parts of ministry to grow involvement by communities.