Sunday, 29 September 2013

A couple of issues of remote rural ministry

While I was up north, a couple of things were drawn to my attention. I had, sort of, known recognised them on an intellectual level. Being in an around the area really brought the issues to the fore.

The first one was to do with connectiveness as a minister. Not to ones parishioners, but to colleagues. I know ministry can be a very lonely job, but I also know of ministers in urban or semi-urban areas who meet regularly with their colleagues. They might be meeting to share ideas/info about school chaplaincy, say, but as part of the conversation they can get support and encouragement too. Or, they can just meet one another for a brew and a blether.

That is not as easy in very rural areas. The distances between neighbouring parishes may prohibit meeting for more than presbytery. And, because everyone knows who you are, it would be impossible to have a chat in a cafe without someone knowing what or who or where you were talking about.

Another 'issue' is what happens when the minister retires? The parish could be the area they have lived and worked in for a very long time. More so, the implications for their husband or wife. They no doubt will have friends and hobbies (and jobs) in the area. To move from the parish would mean leaving that all behind. But, that can make things difficult for the church calling a new minister, when the old minister is still in the pews. Unfortunately, no matter how much the old minister may step back, people being people will go to them for advise or support or to moan. In a urban or semi-urban area, these issues aren't as great. A minister can move to a neighbouring parish/church, but they and their spouse can still maintain contact with the networks they have developed in that place.

I have no great criticism of ministers who do not move from the parish. It takes a brave person to move from everything and everyone they have know for a number of years. I do, though, feel sorry for the church looking for a new minister, as many people will be put off by the old minister still kicking around. Yet another difficulty the remote rural parish has. Shame, the people are lovely in my experience.

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