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Australia on top of rural ministry

Rev Garry Hardingham
With six Australian delegates attending the International Rural Churches Association’s (IRCA) 4th Quadrennial conference held in Germany in September, Australia has shown that when it comes to rural ministry, we have a lot to teach as well as learn.

Indeed IRCA had an Australian, Rev Lloyd Vidler, at the helm as Chairperson in its early days.

The 2010 Conference centred around the issues of hunger, food justice and how food has become a source of political unrest, migration and corporate greed.

Speakers from across the world spoke of the pressure being placed on churches and their agencies to provide support and comfort to people affected by international policies concocted by governments and in board rooms on the opposite side of the globe. One speaker asked: “Why should farmers and their families die of starvation while producing tonnes of canola?”

The fact is the world needs farmers if people want food.

Yet across the globe the needs of farmers and rural communities are given almost no thought in global trade negotiations.

France is not the only country to have seen recent farmers’ strikes but often rural voices are not heard. Organisations like the IRCA are a voice to the voiceless, encouraging the networking of rural churches and ministry workers across the globe to give support, and often solutions, through experience to those who are at the bottom of the human food chain.

Australia has had its fair share of rural communities that have had to find a voice to protect what is intrinsic about their communities and to help our city cousins understand that without farmers, there is no food.

Uniting Church rural ministry agents will gather once again at the end of October for the annual National Rural Ministers Network conference which will be held in Hyden, Western Australia.

Your prayers for our farmers, their communities and churches are welcome.

Rev Garry Hardingham is secretary of the International Rural Churches Association. For more information visit www.irca.net.nz

Photo : Rev Garry Hardingham