My goodness what a busy week! Sunday early morning BCP followed by Valley Worship and football, Monday Little Rainbows, Midday Prayers, Monday Group and extensive post holiday meetings with Beccy, then train to London to see Steve Brine speaking in the House of Commons debate on Acquired Brain Injury (concluding about 11pm) followed by early morning rise for the National Parliamentary Prayer Breakfast, and afterwards seeing Steve perform in the House of Commons in Health Questions, then train back home and immediate drive to Lee Abbey in North Devon
to attend the middle section of a New Wine conference on Rural Churches led by my friend Revd Yann Dubreuil the Rector of Bentley, Froyle and Binsted, who is the Head of Rural Ministry for New Wine; back to Hampshire today; a wedding on Saturday and two services on Sunday!
New Wine is an organisation whose mission is to equip, inspire and encourage church leaders to serve their churches and communities https://www.new-wine.org/about. New Wine is at the charismatic evangelical end of the Anglican spectrum of approaches to worshipping God and is well known for some huge tented conferences held during July and August in each year for individuals and families, which can be an incredibly encouraging break for those who take part, but their work is also to encourage church leaders in various areas.
Yann is an inspirational speaker on rural churches and I know that the many clergy and clergy wives and members of ministry teams who attended the conference will be leaving tomorrow with a lot to think about and some will have moved from gloom and despondency to encouragement and even excitement about what God has in store for their benefices.
Lee Abbey is a remarkable place in what must be one of the most inaccessible edges of the North Devon coast. https://leeabbeydevon.org.uk It describes itself as being “home to a Christian Community that hosts retreats, holidays and conferences on an estate on the dramatic North Devon coast. Individuals, couples, families, small groups and whole churches come to be transformed and renewed by God”. Lee Abbey is what is called a “thin place” where many people encounter the transforming grace of Jesus Christ. The community is quite unlike any monastic community that you might have come across. Informally dressed, mixed with women and men, young and old and people from every nation; they run this beautiful estate by the sea which has its own beach and acres of farm land, which they also farm. A large number of the community are young men and women on their gap years between school and university. Their worship is informal and modern.
Although I learned a lot at the conference from what Yann was teaching, the principal reason that I was there (apart from supporting Yann) was to get the book that we have been writing together over the last two years finished. The book (it’s quite short perhaps more of a pamphlet) will have a rather limited readership as it is written for a particularly niche audience – for ministers who are members of New Wine (and thus steeped in a charismatic evangelical way of looking at things) who have the privilege of being called to lead churches in rural areas. We have crammed into the 73 or so pages (in about 40,000 words) everything that we can think of which might possibly help new clergy to engage with the rural church in a positive way, which recognises that the rural church is different from suburban or city churches, which requires a different, slower, pace which emphasises relationships with everyone in the community in which the church is set.
Yann and I hope that, if ordinands or ministers who have no experience of rural church read this book, that they will arrive with their expectations managed, with more sensitivity towards the things that we do in the countryside than they might otherwise have had and there will be less disappointment and frustration on every side. As one curate said to me at the conference, “there is so little written material about rural churches that anything will be grasped enthusiastically with both hands”. So we have at least one potential reader, even if the book is rubbish!
I could not have written my contribution to this book, without everything that all of you have taught me during my curacy and many of the pieces of wise advice that I have been given by so many of you make an appearance (unattributed of course) in its pages.
Wonderfully we got it finished over the last two days and now we need to see whether New Wine will publish it for us!
Don’t worry, I don’t expect any of you to read it…..