Sunday, February 24, 2019

Rural spiritual values

Joyce Sasse - A family gathers to help prepare for the funeral of their father. In reply to the questions “What were his feelings about faith?”, their first words were “He was never a church-goer … but he did believe in God!” That gave an opening to find words for how his actions gave voice to his values.

This was a man who loved and respected the Creator and felt he worked in partnership with God when he was in the field as well as when it came to raising his family and working with his neighbours. His handshake and his word were his bond!

I recall, also, the adult family members of a committed “church-woman”. They told me what their mother had instilled in them about caring for the land and for each other, about reaching out to offer support to people in pain, and about reaching beyond the boundaries of race, sex and religion to include new-comers into their extensive family and into the community. The Scripture text for that Service was about Jesus saying “I am the way, the truth, the life.” In response to Jesus quarry “Do you understand this?”, as I stand in that kitchen today, I can still imagine her reply while whipping up a cake “You bet, Lord” offered the warmth of her faith and hospitality.

This kind of pastoral experience, plus my explorations with the International Rural Church Network, has led me to affirm “Rural is a Culture” – a culture that has identifiable spiritual values.

Underlying all those values for rural folks is an abiding sense of the PRESENCE OF GOD, whose nature is understood through the life and teachings of Jesus.

The LAND and the LANDSCAPE have been gifted by a living Creator, and we are invited to live in a caring relationship, connected as with an umbilical cord to our Mother, the Earth.

COMMUNITY is an essential part of our lives. Even while many rural people take pride in being INDEPENDENT, each understands the importance of being INTERDEPENDENT. Standing together with family, neighbours and community gives strength for those times when we can not survive on our own.

Rural people, because our lives are so tied in with our extended community, are aware PAIN is always prevalent in our midst. Determining how to help each other move through pain lies at the heart of many in the community.

As in agriculture, so with the social structure of the community – DIVERSITY is essential. The family that can find a place for the daughter-in-law from away … the community that is open to input from doctor or pastor or other newcomer … is a community with a future.

While rural people are proud of their ROOTS in land and community, they are equally proud of WINGS that carry them to distant places. In the days before extended travel was common, the piles of magazines and newspapers and efforts made to hear radio-transmissions showed interest in the world beyond. Founders of the University of Saskatchewan recognized this in 1910. They featured outreach through their Extension Department over on-campus-programs.

These “Village Values” give strength and purpose to people rooted in rural communities. But if we fail to reaffirm these values with each generation, they can become diluted and diminished.

These are the values that help us be “Proud to be Rural”.

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