More than 30 of our rural clergy and lay leaders gathered at Ripon Cathedral for its first ever Rural Ministry Forum this week.
Keynote speaker the Ven Stewart Fyfe, Archdeacon of West Cumberland and chair of the Rural Interest Group on General Synod explored how villages are communities of communities and how this impacts on the local church which was followed by wide-ranging discussions.
The Very Revd John Dobson, Dean of Ripon, welcomed everyone to the cathedral, emphasising that he and the chapter are keen to serve the clergy and parishes of the diocese. Starting with the cathedral’s vision strategy, Growing God’s Kingdom, he described the ways in which the cathedral engages with rural matters through the Ripon Cathedral Rural Forum, his chairing of the North Yorkshire Rural Commission and involvement with the follow up to its report, and the developing specialism of Ripon Cathedral as ‘A Cathedral with a Vision for Rural Mission.’
The Rt Revd Anna Eltringham, Bishop of Ripon, spoke on the value of rural churches and the contribution of faith communities and volunteers in building a sense of belonging in rural areas, and this is an invaluable resource, now that many other facilities have closed. She urged delegates to remember that the ministry of rural churches is much more than Sunday attendance, to believe in what they are doing, and to trust God.
The Ven Stewart Fyfe outlined the challenges of Rural Ministry, the ‘communities within the communities’ to be found in rural areas, and the opportunities for ministry in new ways in today’s economic and social climate. The emerging themes were discussed in the afternoon, and the ways in which Ripon Cathedral could continue to facilitate, encourage, and build confidence in rural ministry, along the lines of the Rural Forum. There was a strong desire to raise the profile of rural ministry, to champion the invaluable work that rural churches are doing, and to provide further opportunities for learning and equipping for lay and ordained ministry as we move forwards.
Dean John concluded the final plenary session by saying, “I am delighted that there is clearly real enthusiasm for the creation of the Ripon Cathedral Rural Ministry Forum. Canon Matthew and others will now meet to explore how we build on this encouraging foundation.” Ripon’s Canon Chancellor, Canon Matthew Pollard said: “This first meeting of the Rural Ministry Forum was a good example of Ripon Cathedral being a Mother Church to the Diocese of Leeds, providing opportunities for colleagues to support, encourage and equip each other. We look forward to hosting other informative and inspiring gatherings.”
Revd Sue McWhinney, associate priest in the Upper Aire Benefice said: “This has been an excellent day, an opportunity to re-kindle our enthusiasm for rural ministry, to gain fresh insights, and to learn from each other.
“I’ve come away feeling encouraged and better equipped for growing God’s kingdom in the rural context.”