Archbishop of Wales Affirms Importance of Ministry in Rural Areas

The Archbishop of Wales has highlighted the importance of rural churches in a church in which more than half of its members lives in rural areas.

|TOP|The Archbishop of Wales, the Most Rev Dr Barry Morgan, reaffirmed the importance of rural churches earlier in the month.

Of the 71,820 on the Church electoral role in 2004 a total of 38,011 – more than half - were living in rural areas.

“In looking at the future ministry and mission of the Church it is as much for these communities that we plan as for any larger city or town,” he said in his lecture, delivered as part of a series organised by The Christian Centre for Rural Wales. “And if the Church in Wales and her sister churches have a future then the rural church has a future.”

Dr Morgan went on to speak about the pressures on the agricultural church highlighting that fewer people are seeking out the church as the starting point of their community lives.

|QUOTE|“The changes and pressures faced by the agricultural community have been immense ... we can see that community life is under threat. Inevitably this impacts on the life of the Church,” he said.

“Today when people move they do not instinctively seek out the Church and get involved. Once, the local church or chapel might have been the natural place to begin to make contacts in the community. This is no longer the case. For those who do seek out the church, they are in many cases seeking a limited involvement.”

Setting out his vision for the rural church, the Archbishop of Wales went on to urge every member of the Church to play his or her part in the mission of God, warning individuals and the Church as a whole not to become self-absorbed.

“For my vision for the rural church I would want to recapture what I believe we have lost in our churches today - the responsibility of the whole people of God for making that Church a living, serving community. The Church of God exists to worship God and serve his world. It is the only organisation that exists for the sake of those who do not belong to it. It is, however, easy for the Church to forget what its main purpose is and to become totally self-absorbed.

|AD|“Secondly, I want to say that every baptised member of the Church has a part to play in the mission of God to his world, but in a church which has a stipendiary clergy it is easy to think that the responsibility for such a mission and ministry is theirs and theirs alone. As the Church in Wales Catechism puts it "the Church carries out its mission through the ministry of all its members.

The Archbishop of Wales also addressed the falling attendance figures of the church in his lecture "The Future of the Rural Church in the next ten years" at the Royal Welsh Agricultural Showground, Llanelwedd.

In 2004 church attendance figures in the Church in Wales fell to 41,500, putting more burden on fewer people to raise the capital needed to keep the church going.

“We have to view that figure optimistically and say that we have over 41,000 people in our churches every Sunday,” he said. “Few organisations in Wales can boast of that level of support. It means that we have representatives in every community in this country.

“With very few exceptions we also have a building in every community and that people look to those churches at the most significant moments of their lives, provides a wonderful opportunity for mission.”

The Archbishop of Wales ended his lecture with a call to the church to be at the heart of the community, adding that work was already underway to find ways of developing church buildings into community resources with weekday access and use.

“These are exciting times” for the rural church, he said. “We face challenges but we also are confronted with great opportunities.”

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