The Germinate Conference takes place every two years and is an opportunity for rural Christians to gather for support and inspiration from across the country. It is organised in partnership with every mainstream denomination plus key para-church and rural organisations. The next conference will take place in October 2018.
Germinate Conference 2016: Making it happen
On Saturday 15 October, two hundred Christians gathered together in Coventry to explore how best to support people to grow as disciples of Jesus in their rural churches and how to more effectively reach out into their local communities. The Germinate Conference took place at The Welcome Centre in Coventry and brought together speakers and facilitators from across the Christian denominations, alongside representatives and resources from key para-church organisations, including Fresh Expressions, Messy Church and HOPE.
Designed to equip and encourage all those involved in rural ministry, the conference heard from a range of contributors, including key-note addresses from Revd Dr Roger Walton, 2016-17 President of the Methodist Conference, and Pete Atkins, Team Co-ordinator for Fresh Expressions.
In his closing remarks the Rt. Revd. James Bell, Bishop of Ripon, reminded the conference of the responsibility and privilege of rural Christians to challenge negative preconceptions of rural life and church and to celebrate the role of the rural church in bringing new life and hope to the countryside.
‘It’s time to tell a new story,’ said Bishop James in response to the reflection of a Church of England vicar-in-training who said, ‘All I ever hear is how hard rural ministry is but today I’ve heard inspirational stories and I’ll go back to college with a new sense of purpose.’
Jerry Marshall, CEO of Germinate: The Arthur Rank Centre, who put the conference together, said, ‘There is no organisation on earth like the church when it’s working well, and growing disciples is key to building the church in local rural communities.’
QUOTES FROM THE CONFERENCE
‘This is such a great opportunity to share lots of really good ideas, inspiration and information, and to hear real life stories from delegates which back up the theory being offered by speakers from the front.’
– Canon Jill Hopkinson, National Rural Officer for the Church of England
‘It’s wonderful to see so many people who are enthused about the countryside. There is such a negative picture about the rural church but the rural church is alive and kicking and doing well and we need to celebrate that.’
– Revd. Elizabeth Clarke, National Rural Officer for the URC and Methodist Churches
‘I’m going to take away with me stories which I will tell in other places of people being imaginative and unafraid to fail, getting out there with God and discovering what they need to learn, because God’s kingdom comes as we take risks.’
– Revd. Dr Roger Walton, 2016-17 President of the Methodist Conference and key note speaker
‘I think rural areas as a whole are understanding that we need to do something different but many feel they don’t know how to do that. Part of our role is to help fire the imagination to see what could be done. There’s a lot of really good stuff happening.’
– Pete Atkins, Team Co-ordinator for Fresh Expressions and key note speaker
‘I think a village has the potential that a city doesn’t have; you can get every person in a village connected.’
Roy Crown, CEO, HOPE
‘We need to tell a new story about rural ministry. My own experience is that many congregations are thriving and the bottom line is that a greater proportion of people in rural communities belong to, or have contact with, the church, certainly than in urban and suburban communities. So there’s a good foundation which means there are huge opportunities to present the gospel of Jesus Christ in imaginative and attractive ways.’