I am a Rural Pastor by Rev. Scotty Ray of Oshkosh, NE
My congregations: I serve St. Mark’s Lutheran in Oshkosh, NE and Berea Lutheran in rural Chappell, NE (both ELCA parishes).
Years at this call: I have been at this call for 3years.
What I love about my call: The most obvious thing I love about this call is the people of the (2) parishes that I serve. I love being able to serve the parishes, but the interpersonal contact with the individual parishioners is the icing on the cake. The trust and faith that they place in me is not taken lightly. It is indeed my pleasure and honor to meet them wherever they are at in their faith journey and to assist in whatever way I can.
What I enjoy about rural/small town life: For most of my adult life (married life), my wife and I have lived rural (remote). I think as a kid watching The Andy Griffith Show I knew I wanted to be in a Mayberry like town even though my wife were both raised in a metropolitan area. After retiring from my fire dept. career in Alaska and deciding upon Oshkosh, NE as a relocation point, we have not had 1 minute of regret. I like the fact that everyone knows everyone. For me, this holds me to a degree of accountability that I would not have in a big city. I, in fact, treasure that aspect. I like the fact that I can go to a friend, or neighbor, seeking assistance with just about any issue and assistance is gladly provided. In turn, I provide the same assistance when requested.
Advice for pastors contemplating a rural call: My advice is to try it and pray on it. If you receive no sure sign, it’s worth the try. If you don’t try, you don’t know. For sure, visit the rural location and familiarize yourself with things that are not available in larger cities and towns. Yes, you will have to drive a distance to accomplish certain things or complete certain tasks. The payoff in the long run, in my opinion, is a sense of personal accomplishment that you cannot obtain anywhere else.
What I wish people knew about rural ministry: I wish all knew just how satisfying a rural call can be. For me, the title of pastor, or worship leader, fails in comparison to being on call and ready to help. I take great pride in knowing that I am available 24/7 for the parishioners. The members and staffs of both parishes, the nursing homes that I serve, and the jails where I serve know without a doubt if/when they call that I coming to help in whatever way the need is (spiritually or providing the sacraments).