Rural Mission in Yorkshire West Methodist District
What do we mean by ‘rural’?
The government defines ‘English rural’ as being outside of settlements with more than 10,000 resident population.
It is not necessarily as straightforward as that and every rural community is different. Common themes for rural areas would be:
- low population density
- distance between residential and commercial centres
- dependence on agriculture and farming
- isolation through lack of public transport, networks of people or available resources
How much of the District is rural?
There are large rural areas within the District which include parts of the Yorkshire Dales. These rural areas have outstanding beauty and face the balance of sustaining farming and tourism which are both key to their economy. In terms of churches, 59 of our District churches are located in rural or semi-rural communities which is over a quarter of the District churches. These range in membership from 1 to over 100. The total membership of these churches is 1868 which is 17% of the District membership.
What are the issues facing rural communities?
- Due to various factors like rising housing costs, low paid work and lack of employment, many younger people are leaving rural communities. This means that rural communities have an average age 5 years older than urban areas.
- Rural areas face isolation with poor public transport, internet links, mobile phone coverage, fuel poverty and limited access to health and social care.
- There is often inequality with some areas of significant wealth and yet poverty is also a key issue within many rural communities.
- Within the farming community there is significant uncertainly due to issues like the impact of Brexit, climate change and more extreme weather patterns and a shortage of labour.
What is going on in the District to support rural communities and the mission of rural churches?
- We have a Rural Lead who is Revd Andrew Webb based in the Skipton & Grassington Circuit. Andrew works one day a week for the District alongside being a circuit minister.
- There is a Rural Strategy Group which meets regularly to reflect on rural issues.
- There is much work going on through local churches to be a positive and supportive presence in rural communities and respond to local needs and opportunities.
- There are a number of auction mart chaplaincies within the District some of which have Methodist chaplains.
- For further information please click here.
The Rural Strategy Group have also developed a Strategy for use by circuits and churches across our District. Hard copies were given out at Spring Synod in April 2022, but further copies of the Strategy can be downloaded here:
Stories of Rural Mission
- Oxenhope Community Café
- Malham Angels
- Blackshaw Head "As We Are Gathered"
- Growing Kids - A Rural Story
- Farmer leads the way in Climate Crisis
- Interview with John Dawson about the joys and challenges of farming life
The link to the Connexion's Rural Mission & Ministry page can be found here.