Yorkshire Churches Rural Business Support
Mission in the commercial field is an opportunity for service in circumstances that, for some, are surprising. What has ‘filthy lucre’ got to do with Christian love? Yet the power of that love to bring new life to places where we sometimes struggle to survive is demonstrated by Yorkshire Churches Rural Business Support (YCRBS). Intriguingly, it is also an area where we can see the possibilities that would open up if Anglican and Methodist ministries became interchangeable.
YCRBS began as a legacy of earlier work among the farming community especially in the post Food and Mouth era. In the context of social cohesion, Christians in Yorkshire were asking themselves what they could do to make the harmony brought about by the Gospel touch upon the lives of people round about them. This is particularly vital because some elements of rural life are increasingly fragile as the number of people working in agriculture grows less, house prices force the young and poor to move away, and questions around Brexit lead to uncertainty with regard trade, labour and the impact upon subsidies.
At the same time, it is clear that often the main institution remaining in villages is the Church. How then could the Church reach out, especially to farmers? What service was needed?
The answer seemed to be, alongside other farming charities (such as the Farming Community Network, Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution and the Addington Fund) to reintroduce chaplains into the Yorkshire Auction Marts. Of the 14 marts, 10 now have chaplains. It is progressing extremely well. One reason for this is that it is completely ecumenical, calling upon the gifts and the resources of many churches. Indeed, at its very beginning YCRBS has involved lay and ordained people from a range of churches.
The chaplaincy is quite a time commitment and takes several hours a week. In two of the larger Auction Marts there are both an Anglican and a Methodist chaplain – and Anglicans and Methodist co-operate elsewhere. To many it is clear that interchangeability of ministry between Anglicans and Methodists would bring great benefits albeit in reality this is already happening, at least informally. There is still recognition and significance attached to the ‘dog collar’ in places like auction marts but, in the view of many, any denominational labelling is bordering on the irrelevant.
YCRBS is now looking forward to its next projects. These too are likely to find their mission enhanced by a growing relationship between the Church of England and the Methodist Church of Great Britain. Some fervently express the desire that, should the time come for a still more seamless relationship between the two churches through a reconciled ministry, it should be done with some imaginative liturgical event to make the change obvious. This would serve to publicize the great work being done by bodies such as YCRBS, making co-operation easier, and decrease any reservations that may linger among their partners in rural ministry who may be ill at ease with new forms of mission.