Rural churches struggle

Rural churches struggle

Rural churches internationally are struggling to find resources. Their ministers often must serve many congregations at once.

An organisation called International Rural Churches Association (IRCA) recently held its 6th conference in Christchurch.

The group’s chairman, Jerry Marshall, told delegates that rural churches are relevant and “a voice for voiceless.”

“Often rural people get drowned out by strong urban voices and we can stand up for some of the rural issues around the world.”

New Zealander Rev. Robyn McPhail helped set up the Association in 1993.

It’s the first time the conference has been held in the southern hemisphere.

About 100 people attended it. They came from New Zealand, Australia, the South Pacific, Canada, the United States, Asia, Africa, the United Kingdom and Europe.

Marshall says rural church communities around the world face similar challenges.

“That might be one minister supporting eight churches in the United Kingdom. In Malawi it could mean going around 50 churches and visiting one church a week.”

Churches stand fast when other services leave

Delegates heard that in many rural communities, churches are probably the only group left when all the other services have gone.

It gives churches an important role to play in bringing people together.

In countries like South Sudan, churches were mediating between warring tribes.

In a crisis such as a major fire or earthquake, rural churches were often the first to respond.

Marshall says faith has a diminishing role in modern society. But still people want somewhere to place their flowers or to acknowledge a tragic event.

Consequently churches have an important service to play.


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News category: New Zealand.