God's Own Country
The God's own Country resources were created to support and inspire rural churches as well as to support them in meeting the unique challenges of ministry in a rural environment.
Made up of the six sections listed below, God's own Country can be downloaded as a text file to be read online or printed.
Rural Parish Minister Colin Williamson eloquently draws together theological rigour and Inspirational insights to help us see creation and rural settings as central features of our Christian life, and encourages us to exercise a 'priesthood towards creation'. Philip Newell provides a useful high-speed history of Celtic Christianity's take on graceful salvation, emphasising that nature – both human nature, and the rest of the created world – all reveal the love and goodness of God.
At a time of widespread environmental crisis, it is important for churches to engage with one of the most serious problems of this time and to offer hope rather than apathy or despair. Eco-congregations are not new, but they are important, non-denominational, widespread and a great way to address local and global concerns about energy, food, and economic justice. Approaching these pressing issues is a way to engage the whole community in meaningful action, supporting them in their understanding of the values of the Kingdom of God by emphasising concern for all people and stewardship of creation. This is a good way to show how church action can be biblically based and worshipful whilst making our theology practical and relevant. This guide has some ideas that have been tested by other congregations and might be adaptable to your situation.
This includes three articles from different perspectives which all enrich our understanding of sacred space. John Hume explores the concept of the sacred space with special reference to church buildings, encouraging us to consider the ways in which physical places can encourage the "serious engagement of humans with the divine". Jim McEwan considers the role of church buildings in the life of the community, while Christine Sime provides a personal view of how rural Ministry can work as "yeast in the dough", encouraging church members to serve the wider community.
Connecting with Your Community
Everyone loves to tell their story, and in doing so we learn about ourselves and our community. "Our history shapes our future." Oral storytelling, written stories, shared stories and even pictures all help us to understand who we are, what our values are, and what our dreams are as family, congregation and community. The Community Toolkit is included as a practical session guides. This is a very simple, quick questionnaire that the smallest Kirk Session/congregation can use to highlight basic statistics about their parish life. No previous experience is necessary, but the results may cause you to move on to other Community/Congregational audit tools such as Statistics for Mission and Future Focus.
Also included is Rev. Richard Frazer's reflection on social capital, which is an exploration of community identity in a time to radical social change. Far from being seen as a drain on society rural community and church should be valued as a national resource.
Hospitality and care for strangers are biblical imperatives for Christians, and rural Scotland has a large number of holidaymakers and travellers who are strangers to the area. People have more time to reflect and to connect with their spirituality whilst on holiday, and pilgrimage is becoming a popular activity with walking and cycling routes across the country. Andrew Duff challenges and encourages you to engage meaningfully with our visitors and offer the wonderful gift of hospitality.
Dane Sherrard's experience of transforming several rural church buildings into world renowned venues is an encouraging and inspiring one that emphasises the need for creating partnerships. Teaming up with outside organisations on the local, national, and international level has given the local congregations of Arrochar and Luss purpose, spiritual direction and vitality. With vision and innovation, there is no limit to what Christ can enable to happen!
This guide sets out some tactics for engaging with young people in a rural context. Good youth work is not based on numbers but on quality. Engagement with young people should not be done for the sake of the 'future church', but done out of love and concern for young people here and now. Engaging with young people requires an awareness of their needs, and respect for their input and voice in the congregation. If young people are bored and isolated, perhaps the church is an ideal setting for after-school groups on weekdays to meet up – it is important to be creative to find ideas that meet the needs to young people, rather than developing ideas and then wondering why young people are not interested. The importance of networks and large meet-ups for young people in rural areas is also highlighted.
What is meant by 'rural'? This basic introduction to the economy, land matters, governing and institutions that impact Scotland as a whole - and rural Scotland specifically - comes with plenty of references for support. It also provides in-depth analysis of statistics for those desiring deeper knowledge of these issues.
Addressing Disadvantage in Rural Scotland
This is an academic critique explaining why rural poverty is hidden and ignored, and highlights who it is that suffers as a result. Deprivation cannot be measured simply by finance but incorporates transport, housing, internet and retail availability, education and entertainment opportunities. Where might the Church fit into all this, and work to change things for the better? More information about rural deprivation can be found at the Understanding Rural Deprivation Technical Report and the Understanding Rural Deprivation Findings Report.