On Tuesday, May 11, 2021 rural pastors from all over the Midwest gathered at Luther Memorial Church in Des Moines, Iowa. A worship service and graduation ceremony was held in their honor as they completed a ten-month long continuing education program with The Moses Project. President Kent Henning of Grand View University, where The Moses Project is housed, delivered remarks to the rural pastors who had gathered for the occasion. Here are his remarks.
"Thank you to all of you pastors for participating in the Moses Project, for taking the time to seek renewal, to learn and grow. Most of all, thank you for your ministry (more about that in a bit)
I also want to thank Pastor Russ and the other leaders, mentors, & staff. The fact that we have the Moses Project at Grand View is perhaps an example of the mysterious ways in which God works. Here is Pastor Russ, who grew up in Southern California, went to seminary in Minneapolis. The least densely populated area where he has lived and worked is here in Des Moines. He comes to me and proposes we launch the Moses Project. I may have glanced back at him with a look that said, “And what do you know about rural ministry?” But I’m glad he did. Because this is personal for me.
My story is a bit different from his. I grew up on a small family farm in northeast Iowa. I was raised in a small rural church, St. John Lutheran in Farmersburg. While that little congregation did not finish the job, it laid the foundation for the faith that sustains me to this day. I still have loved ones in that area; I’ve lost many of them, but I have—even though I left—stayed in touch.
I see what has happened to those remaining in rural areas.
THESE ARE PEOPLE…
Whose young ones have left home, never to move back;
Whose schools have been emptied and merged with others farther away;
Whose main street businesses have been replaced by chains stores or online shopping;
Whose once-vibrant towns are now marked with boarded up buildings and abandoned houses.
THESE ARE PEOPLE who need the church community.
THESE ARE PEOPLE
Who live in an economy foreign to what they once knew;
Farming is now high tech, high priced, high stakes, and high stress;
The off-the-farm jobs in their communities have been lost to robots or have been off-shored to countries that exploit cheap labor;
Yet they remain unconnected to fiber optic and other new technologies that will fuel the economy of the future.
THESE ARE PEOPLE who need hope, hope found in the promises God has made;
THESE ARE PEOPLE…
Who’ve been forgotten by privileged elites who fly over them at 35,000 ft.;
Who’ve been skipped over by corporations, retailers, & entertainers;
Who’ve been mocked and ridiculed by politicians, media personalities, and so-called late-night comedians.
THESE ARE PEOPLE who need to feel the love of Christ.
THESE ARE PEOPLE…
Who have NOT been spared the scourge of…
Alcohol and drug addiction,
Mental health challenges,
Cancer, chronic disease, and age-related health issues;
Yet the front-line services that are meant to help them deal with these challenges have moved miles and miles farther from their front doors.
THESE ARE PEOPLE who need the healing power of the Church.
BUT THESE ARE ALSO PEOPLE WHO…
See God in creation;
Love their Lord;
Work hard and serve their neighbors;
Cherish the relationships they have with fellow parishioners;
Know that making a Jell-O salad or a dessert made with obscene amounts of butter, sugar, and chocolate chips can provide comfort for a grieving family.
THESE ARE PEOPLE who need to be supported by the ministry of their congregations.
THESE ARE PEOPLE WHO NEED YOU.
I thank God for those of you who have been called to serve rural parishes. Your ministry is needed, it’s special, it’s important. And I am grateful that Grand View, through the Moses Project, can support you in this important work you do.
THANK YOU. AND GOD BLESS YOU."