Released for Mission: Growing the Rural Church is a report of a major research project led by Canon Dr Jill Hopkinson, National Rural Officer for the Church of England. It presents a fascinating picture of the rural church as well as identifying priorities for action.
This research report, commissioned by the Rural Affairs Group of General Synod and published in January, captures the authentic grassroots voices of lay people and clergy working in rural multi-church groups. Their stories tell of the current realities of mission and ministry in the countryside: the creative ideas and opportunities; the complexities and difficulties. It sets out priorities for changes that need to be made by the national church, dioceses, deaneries, multi-church groups and parishes in order to release capacity and energy for mission and growth.
Words taken from the Arthur Rank Centre website
The following press release was issued by the Arthur Rank Centre when the report was published.
The Arthur Rank Centre strongly supports the research report Released for Mission published by the Church of England today. “It is absolutely essential that the Church of England implements the recommendations in Released for Mission,” says Arthur Rank Centre CEO Jerry Marshall. “The next decade is a make or break time for continuing rural ministry. Thankfully some rural dioceses are already moving in the right direction.”
The report points to the importance of the rural church (two-thirds of parishes) and to many areas of success, particularly around fresh expressions and Messy Church. A statistical analysis indicates that there is no clear link between growth and the number of parishes in a multi-church group; but lay leadership and an intentional focus on mission are crucial.
Priorities identified by the report include:
- Building a culture of discipleship
- Envisioning, enabling and equipping the ministry of lay people
- Effective training for lay and clergy for the complexity of leading multiple churches
- Simplification of governance and legal structures
- Facilitating creative ecumenical partnerships.
The report outlines findings from a major research project led by Canon Dr Jill Hopkinson, the National Rural Officer for the Church of England.
“Rural churches of all denominations are not always aware that they can and do engage in mission,” said Revd Elizabeth Clark, National Rural Officer for the Methodist Church and the United Reformed Church. “This report highlights what is happening whilst at the same time pointing out the challenges that exist, particularly for Anglican Churches. Many Methodist and URC Churches face similar constraints. My hope is that we will look for ways of tackling these obstacles together since ecumenism is a mission imperative.”
The National Rural Officers are based at the Arthur Rank Centre, the churches’ resource for rural mission and ministry. “We provide training and resources in leadership and mission, for both lay and ordained, across denominations,” said Jerry Marshall. “But much more needs to be done. We especially urge national leadership structures to find ways to reduce the burden of local governance and to support the creation of staff posts that address administration, finance, and facilities management, to release time and energy for mission.”
You can find out more about the Arthur Rank Centre and Germinate! on their website.