Sunday, July 15, 2007

IRCA - Sharing the Good News !!!

The following is the press release I recieved today from the IRCA summarizing the Conference we held in Brandon. It is a nice wrap up of a fabulous opportunity:

Gathering has Concern for Rural Communities July 13, 2007

written by Joyce Sasse

A deep awareness of world community quickly formed as 81 people visiting from 12 nations gathered for the International Rural Church Association’s (IRCA) fourth quadrennial conference.

Members of the Canadian Rural Church Network hosted these visitors at Brandon University (July 3-9, 2007). Participants, from South Korea, New Zealand, Australia, Switzerland / Romania, Germany, England, Tonga, Indonesia, India, Czech Republic, Iceland and USA, were rural people (clergy and lay) and church leaders who shared concerns effecting rural communities, and sought to develop a deeper understanding about how churches might respond to these “Cries From and Heart” (which was the theme of the Conference).

Enroute to Brandon, twenty-five people enjoyed a week’s hospitality in different communities across Canada.

Keynote speaker John Ikerd, Economics Professor Emeritus from the University of Missouri, a strong advocate for the future of small sustainable farms, spoke about how “under the guise of economic development, our rural communities are being colonized“ by giant multinational corporations who have no commitment to the future of rural people nor their resources. He pleaded for delegates to name the evil and find alternative ways to carry on.

After speaking eloquently about the responsibility Christians have to conserve and sustain the earth’s resources, Roman Yuriga described the alternative energy initiatives his Orthodox Academy is making in the Czech Republic.

Reflecting on the Biblical story where Christ killed the fig tree growing on the edge of the Jerusalem Temple grounds, Cameron Harder (from Lutheran Seminary, Saskatoon, Canada) connected this imagery with “blood-stained food”. Authorities inside the Temple were ripping the poorest people off by forcing them to buy inflated Temple Money before they could make their offerings. When inside the Temple area, Jesus over-turned the tables and cursed the vendors for their corrupt activities. What of our food is similarly leached at unreasonable cost?

Some conference delegates shared stories about deteriorating water supplies, and discussed possibilities for intervention. Experiments are being done in New Zealand, for example, to fix nitrogen in the cold season and released it in the growing season. This makes the best use of nitrogen while slowing algae build-up in water-ways.

Others discussed ways which rural people are devalued. Stories of healthy rural communities are dismissed as unimportant. Language is manipulated to equate “big” with “good”, and “technology” with “resolving all problems”.

“Leadership” was the topic of the third Issues Group. Shared leadership and cooperative decision-making is an essential factor in building vibrant communities.

Churches have opportunity to offer support, healing and hope in rural communities that have been made to feel devalued and ignored, according to the fourth Issues Group. But it takes time to build trust and help the community work toward a vision of what they believe they can become. It is work that requires long-term commitment, and is often enhanced by surprising interventions of the Almighty.

There is a “Cry From the Heart” of rural people around the world. But through story-telling, prayer and song it was affirmed that there are many visions of hope in the rural landscape.

Incoming IRCA Chairperson is Lothar Schullarus, a rural parish minister in Switzerland and Romania. Incoming Secretary is Gary Hardingham, a parish minister who travels by plane to service his churches in out-back Australia. The fifth such gathering will be convened within four years at a place to be announced.

Your prayer news collector, Robyn, has a story to share from her home. The morning many of us left Brandon I received news of another flood in one of the communities I serve in Northland, New Zealand – Kaeo. You may recall the news and prayer request I sent out in early April. That flood was rated as a 125-year flood. This time the water rose even deeper through the town and it has been very distressing to read and watch TV news clips on the internet and know that my people at home have been hit so badly but be unable to be there with them.

Please pray for us as we cope with a changing environment, as that is how it seems to be.

Updated photos can be seen at

Shalom - Rangimarie - Peace


Robyn McPhail, Chairperson IRCA


wendy said...

i liked this..much appreciated.
thanks for posting it.

Awareness said...

Greetings from New Brunswick....
I was attempting to find a link to the recent CBC doc on Rabbi Heschel and stumbled across your blog....and have enjoyed reading a few of your posts.

Your perspective and insights with respect to rural living and the role of the church is interesting to me as I often am on the road visiting people in their homes in rural New Brunswick. In fact, I was doing that today....and was actually thinking about this very thing. So, it seemed providential that I would find your blog.

Hope the summer breezes are as warm and inviting in your part of Canada as they are here today.