‘One thing I ask from the Lord,
this only do I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to gaze on the beauty of the Lord
and to seek Him in His temple.
For in the day of trouble
He will keep me safe in His dwelling;
He will hide me in the shelter of His sacred tent
and set me high upon a rock.’
Psalm 28: 4 – 5 NIV
Last week RM held our final ‘Rural Conversations Day’ of 2022 for church pioneers and practitioners – the first two having taken place earlier in the year at Scargill House in North Yorkshire and Launde Abbey in Leicestershire. It also turned out to be the first one of the newly formed Rural Hub at Lee Abbey in north Devon. As we are often asked about what happens on the Rural Hub days I thought I’d take this opportunity to give you a flavour of this one. We are still praying our way into the planning of these days for next year and for this we’d greatly value your prayers.
There was a gentle murmur as we gathered in the chapel after a short time of worship led by the resident Community. Old friends greeted one another, and newcomers made themselves known before we turned to examine the text we’ve been using all year to help us explore the theme of ‘Into the Deep’: the call of the first disciples on the Sea of Galilee in Luke 5: 1 - 11.
Although it’s a text Ali, Simon and I have been working with since June 2021, as we read it, I was struck again by how the Holy Spirit can take what is so familiar and highlight new aspects of it that I’d not thought of before. All that it takes for this happen is to spend time with the text, to ‘dwell’ in it and listen for what grabs your attention – it might just be a word or a sentence that sort of ‘jumps’ out at you – for me it was a question that dropped into my mind: ‘what is MY deep?’ It’s a question I will be mulling over in the weeks to come. It was fascinating to see how we’d all had a different response, yet every response was equally valid, adding new insights and increasing our understanding of the passage.
Simon shared a little about what he’d been thinking about over the past few weeks and invited a discussion about how the world and churches are changing. We shared what is happening in our own contexts. This was probably my favourite part of the day as it was inspiring to hear what God is doing in out of the way places in rural southwest England, by people quietly getting on with what they’ve been called to do. Much of it is ‘slow and deep ministry’ because it is about building relationships which take time but this creating of spiritual communities, often one person at a time, is a significant work and a common feature of rural ministry whether done by pioneers or practitioners in an inherited church.
In the afternoon we prayed and reflected on what we’d heard and there was time to wander in the glorious setting of Lee Abbey grounds with the serene, green blue sea as a beautiful backdrop. We ended with a discussion of how the Rural Hubs could best serve those in rural ministry as it’s our intention that the Hubs will be shaped and ‘owned’ by the participants themselves.
Halfway through the day the news broke that the UK had lost yet another Prime Minister. It wasn’t unexpected news, but it did serve to underline the need to make sure we don’t lose a passion to reach out beyond our formal church settings. The world can be in turmoil, the stock markets in meltdown and no clear leadership in place but we worship a God who does not change, who steers a steady course, and we can trust Him because He is trustworthy and has proved to be time and again.
We may want to hide in our safe spaces and stay away from the tumult surrounding us, waiting until the storms of life have passed by before we surface but we can’t. There are so many people who do not have a rock to stand on, who don’t even know there is a dwelling place to long for, and who feel very unsafe right now. Now, more than ever, people need to know that they are loved by God who, unlike other leaders, will never let them down, who does keep His promises and who will never lose sight of them. And sometimes, we need to remind ourselves of this truth as well.
Director: Wales & South-West England
If you are interested in getting involved in a Rural Hub then please keep an eye on our website. We will soon be announcing details of what’s happening in 2023.