Ecumenical Rural Ministry Consultation – an Anglican’s perspective

July 2016  |  Hōngongoi Diocesan News and Views  |  He Pitopito Kōrero me ngā Tirohanga a Rohe Pīhopa A joint group of rural Catholics, Anglicans and Union parish people from…

July 2016  |  Hōngongoi

Diocesan News and Views  |  He Pitopito Kōrero me ngā Tirohanga a Rohe Pīhopa

A joint group of rural Catholics, Anglicans and Union parish people from the International Rural Churches Association, invited ‘anyone with a rural heart’ to the ninth Trans-Tasman Ecumenical Rural Ministry Consultation (TT2016) held in the Wairarapa 16‒19 May this year. The theme was ‘Life, death and resurrection – the future of the rural church for the whole community’. It was time to share stories, meet locals, study scripture, and find new courage to be effective church in small communities. Fr Bruce England, parish priest for The Catholic Parish of Wairarapa, and Carterton-based Lay Pastoral Leader, Sharon Penny, led the session on changing church.

Anglican priest and Chaplain to the Wellington Anglican Diocese, Reverend Jenny Dawson, reports.

‘But those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.’ – John 4:1

‘Have you heard what the Catholics are up to?’ My attention was attracted by this excited comment from one participant in TT2016 to another who had missed the Wednesday afternoon session. The speaker went on to describe what the rest of us had heard: Fr Bruce England’s description of the organisational changes in Wairarapa parish life, undergirded with extracts from the 2013 pastoral letter from then Archbishop John Dew on the proposed amalgamation, and Lay Pastoral Leader Sharon Penny’s history of Catholic life as it had developed across the whole Wairarapa. Fr Bruce spoke of a ‘huge’ process of consultation,
co-responsibility between clergy and laity. ‘For me, the role is no longer solitary,’ he said. And he gave a seminar on grieving and assurances that our God always accompanies us. Pope Francis was quoted as saying something like, ‘Don’t worry about filling the church – go out to where the church is’.

In many ways that was the spirit of the five-day experience enjoyed by 40 participants in TT2016 from a variety of denominations all over New Zealand and parts of Australia. We began on the Monday at Te Rangimarie Marae in Masterton, which included an introduction to the area by past Mayor Bob Francis. We saw the church at work in Tinui and at Castlepoint Station. We heard how people of faith organise support for farmers in the tough times ‘down on the farm’. We listened to some Greytown Anglicans, led by Vicar Andy Eldred, talking about, ‘When worlds collide: ministry dynamics in a rural/urban parish’. Rosemary Dewerse from St John’s College in Auckland challenged us to ‘Keep faith, grow in faith, and speak faith’. At the end of the day at St Patrick’s Catholic Church in Masterton, Presbyterian Minister Rev Dr Jim Veitch told us about the hidden story behind the ‘Featherston Incident’ in 1943. And there were three Bible Studies led by another Presbyterian, Robyn McPhail.

Over these days together, we people with hearts discovered a variety of ways to go out to where the church is, and we learned from each other.

Visit the web ( to read more about TT2016 and the International Rural Churches Association.