January 10, 2020
Of the 83 Texas counties composing the bounds of the Rio Texas Conference, 56 to 62 counties [67% to 75%] are considered to be rural, depending on the various state systems that classify urban and rural settings.
Recently, various pastors and laity met to share joys and challenges of the presence of the church and its’ ministry in rural community settings. The conversation was convened by the Transforming Communities Vision Team with the intent of garnering interest and insights of the value of launching a rural initiative in the Rio Texas Conference.
When asked about their interest in being past of this particular conversation, some items mentioned by participants were: passion for the small church and its’ role in the community, seeing the rural church as the heart and soul of the UMC, the rural church has much to give, yet feels at times like an unheard voice, interest to hear from others serving in similar settings, and seeing what additional resources might be available to support and enhance the ministry work of the rural church.
In brainstorming possible issues to address that can increase support for rural churches and the pastors serving them, some next steps cited were: enhancing the ways pastors serving in rural settings are cared for, broadening resource support for clergy and congregations, providing training opportunities for clergy and rural congregations and communities, and lifting up success stories and the celebration highlights of rural congregations and communities.
In February, the Transforming Communities Vision Team will gather to look for ways to cultivate this initiative through follow up and further conversation with participants of the initial gathering as well as broadening the conversation to connect with pastors and rural congregations and communities throughout Rio Texas.
As the Transformational Communities of Praxis [TCOP] program www.tcopraxis.org begins training new teams in 2020, two of the incoming teams are from rural communities. Through TCOP, deeper community development work has begun in Brackettville [pop. 1,740], where through he convening of the church, community residents, local government officials, and people of faith, residents are coming together to envision the transformational development of Kinney County [pop. 3,800].
FUMC / Hope Outreach Center – Brackettville was part of the initial TCOP learning cohort in 2017.