‘Presence’, a new handbook that aims to shape the way churches work will be launched in the upcoming Methodist conference 2004 which will be held at Loughborough University from June 26th to July 1st. This handbook has brought together both politicians and religious leaders to promote and to sustain Christian presence in rural areas.
Christian churches are still representing the most important imagery of faith communities in rural areas. According to the report, unless changes are made quickly, there will be huge areas in Britain’s countryside without effective Christian presence.
The editor of ‘Presence’ and Chair of the Cumbria’s District Methodist Church, The Rev. David Emison, says, “New patterns of worship will be encouraged. There is a growing demand for simple rituals to help people express the sorrows and joys of human experience. An effective Christian presence is not necessarily building-centered or Sunday focused. The church must learn how to respond to popular spirituality, though at the same retain its authentic Christian witness”.
Offering his support, The Rt Hon Alun Michael MP, Minister for Rural Affairs and Local Environmental Quality said, “The Church has a key role in helping people faced with poverty and social exclusion, which can be a special problem in scattered communities where those without transport – especially the young and the old – can be particularly isolated. As ‘Presence’ recognizes, the churches need to work with other public service providers, local authorities and parish councils, to develop an integrated approach to meeting the changing needs of rural people and communities.”
'Presence' also raises issues regarding the nature of rural ministry. To adjust to these new changes, new skills are being demanded from church leaders both lay and ordained.
Team Leader of Formation in Ministry, Rev. Ken Howcroft says, “We need new initiatives to fire our imagination, channel our commitment and release new energy”.
‘Presence’ will be launched at The Methodist Conference on Monday June28, and will be debated by the Conference on the following day. The Methodist church is representative of over 3,000 churches in rural areas. Even though this document has been prepared by the Methodist denomination, it has been expressed that it is for use by all Christian communities, in rural and urban areas, to adapt and to use.