Sunday, February 17, 2019

Strong rural roots

Joyce Sasse - With so many pressures bombarding our rural youth from a society that is global-and-urban centred, how can we foster a sense of rural pride?  

Members of the Blackfoot Nation tell me they have faced the same kind of crisis for some time. “We realized we would never get anywhere until we knew who we were as a people.”  They turned to the Elders for help. The Elders shrugged and said “Nobody cares … Our memory is lost” … A few middle-aged people brought the Elders together to help them remember. One by one the stories came to life: stories about the history of the People and the Spirit of the People.

The embers of memory were fanned into flame and the People started to reclaim their traditional culture, and pass their stories and traditions on to their youth. Cultural roots bring nourishment.

I’m recognizing the resilience Aboriginal friends are finding as they draw from those cultural traditions. This suggests maybe we, too, can help enrich the lives of our rural youth by fostering their rural cultural values.

Start by recognizing “Rural is a Culture” … Through work with the International Rural Church Association, I have learned that many spiritual traditions are shared by rural people around the world. We have strong values that can be highlighted by our Faith Communities and among our leaders. How will our youth know where they are rooted if we don’t find ways to show them? … How can these practises help all of us know where we belong?

Awareness of such values can also be important for the newbies in our communities. The significance of having diversity in a community is as important as is diversity in agriculture. Each has much to offer the community in a world of innovation and change.

At a Rural Ministry Conference organized by Australians and New Zealanders, they noticed “Participants at the first gathering had low energy levels and were uncertain and bewildered. As they listened to stories and shared experiences, a strong momentum developed, and the conference finished on a positive note of hope.

“At succeeding gatherings, the resilience of local congregations and local communities was evident. Local solutions were being worked out …”

What does this tell us about our need to share our own experiences? As we share with each other, can we develop local solutions to local concerns built on our rural values? In doing this, can we regain our sense of hope? With strong rural roots, we can accomplish great things.

(Watch my next column and see what those Rural Spiritual Values include.)

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