Church must speak up for rural communities

The Church of England has heard how it has a vital role to play in lobbying on rural disadvantage.

Professor Mark Shucksmith, of Newcastle University's Institute for Social Renewal, told the Church's Rural Affairs Group that there was much the Church could do to promote Christian values in rural communities.

With the closure of the Government's Commission for Rural Communities at the end of this month, Professor Shucksmith said the Church would need to step in to fill the gap.

The Church could not only be a vital lifeline for rural communities, he said, but also show leadership and inspire neighbourliness in action through social justice and compassion.

Professor Shucksmith said the Church could also make a practical contribution to rural communities through its land, buildings, and congregations.

The Bishop of Hereford and member of the Rural Affairs Group, the Right Reverend Anthony Priddis said: "I fully welcome this encouragement for the Church to continue to engage and speak out on issues affecting our rural communities.

"We face many of these issues in my own diocese of Hereford and this is a stark reminder for us all to take action."