Last week I went to a two day conference organised by New Wine, focussing on rural ministry. I thought that it would be a good idea to imbibe some wisdom from those already working in this area – and found it both enjoyable and insightful.
The main speaker was Graham Dow, the former Bishop of Carlisle. He was a compelling speaker to listen to, despite a lack of bells and whistles in his presentation: he has a quiet, understated passion, an honesty, and an acute intelligence that command attention.
Some of the things that he spoke about were normal for Christian ministry anywhere, such as the primacy of prayer, but there are others which are more specific. Having come from an urban environment before going to Carlisle, he observed that kindness is a particularly marked virtue in rural Cumbria, but that there is also a great need for teaching on forgiveness. For example, there are towns and villages which are divided from each other, because they fought on different sides in the civil war! He mentioned Appleby and Kirkby Stephen (which a Google search easily confirms). As I’d heard about this before in west Durham, I recognised that this might be a recurring issue.
He mentioned Healing on the Streets as a ministry which in its usual form might not be obviously applicable, but that the principles behind it remain valid. People get sick in the country as well as in the towns, so prayer for healing is just as important. Likewise, prophetic prayer is another way to connect people with the Holy Spirit.
All in all, I found the two days there most helpful, and feel that I may have gained some helpful wisdom for my own ministry in the future.