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From the pulpit, some pastors gaze not upon a cathedral or even a rustic church in the wildwood, but upon a sanctuary still blotched by ceiling stains from the big ice storm two years ago. Their members may arrive wafting not Chanel No. 5, but Guernsey No. 2. When the guys discuss the weather after church, it's not to check conditions for the first tee but because that last ten acres of alfalfa need one more day of sun. Church growth has more to do with Dr. Spock than Peter Wagner. A choir is something that sang at Jesus' birth; special music is the two Jones girls.

Such congregations have history; they have tradition, roots, blood ties. What they don't have is many members. Odds are they have less than fifty.

I'm talking about the thousands of rural congregations spread across North America, most of them similar to the small Mennonite congregation I served as pastoral elder for six years. Nearly 20 percent of church adherents attend such a fellowship.

Rural realities

Bucolic images of sewing ...

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