Centre for Rural Community Leadership and Ministry

circle M Conferences & other Events


2014 rural ministry conference


Who Came?
Delegates representing 10 denominations... from 6 provinces...44 clergy, 21 lay leaders, 6 other...


Complex Post Traumatic Stress Symptoms in First Nations Populations.
Presenter: Mr. Steve Skakum



Preparing Your Congregation for Disaster.
Presenters: Major Mike Hoeft and Pastor Chris Hewko



History: Father Albert Lacombe


Keynote Speaker

Bishop Mark MacDonald

Presentation #1

Our Missiological Location: Mapping Where We Are
How may we describe the missiological context of rural ministry,
especially as it is informed by the significantly related ministry of Indigenous Peoples?

Part 1-1

Part 1-2

Presentation #2

Steps on the Way Forward
What are the ideas and practices that will move us forward?

Part 2-1

Presentation #3

Part 3-1



Earlier Conferences and Events



November 2011 Conference
New Shoots From Old Roots: Celebrating Vital Ministry in Town and Country

Entheos Conference & Retreat Centre (near Cochrane AB)



Photo by A. McGilvery






Summaries of Registration Statistics and Delegate Evaluations - click here
Thank you to those delegates who provided their evaluations!

Article about Conference in Western Producer (pdf 3 MB)


Theme Sepakers

1. Dr. Shannon Jung

Noted author and lecturer Dr. Jung has done extensive research on rural populations, food and agriculture. He is founder and former director of the Centre for Theology and Land (Dubuque, Iowa), and is currently Professor of Town and Country Ministries at Saint Paul School of Theology. Dr. Jung is currently working on a new book on Practicing Care in Rural Congregations and Communities, which will be the topic of his lectures.

Part 1:

Part 2:


2. Rev. David Webber

Rev. Webber is the visionary and co-founder of an exciting ecumenical house-church ministry situated in the challenging Canadian setting of the Cariboo-Chilcoltin region in central British Columbia. For over 20 years, Rev. Webber has continued to guide, lead, teach and expand this dynamic mix of rural congregations.

Part 1:

Part 2:


Workshops and Panel

1. Vibrant Rural Churches - A Decade Later Leader: Eric Olfert

In 2002, Mennonite Church Saskatchewan recognised that its smallest rural congregations were in transition, if not in crisis, largely as a result of decline in their communities.  The response was the Vibrant Rural Churches Project.  Eric Olfert described and reflected on the long-term impact of this project and where things are today.  Eric worked with Mennonite Central Committee Africa Programs and currently works for Mennonite Church Canada as a Missions Educator.

2. The Gifts of Small Churches. Leaders: Rev. Dr. Cameron Harder and Rev. Peter Yeung

This workshop looked at the kinds of ministry that become possible when churches get smaller.  It examined the small, strong, and missional church as a paradigm for the early church’s disciple-forming mission. Workshop leader Cam Harder is currently Professor of Systematic Theology at the Lutheran Theological Seminary Saskatoon and Executive Director of CiRCLe M. Peter Yeung is Rector of Parkland Parish - a three-point parish in rural Saskatchewan.

3. Workshop for Judicatory Heads. Leaders: Ven. Michael Rolph and Rev. Dr. Cameron Harder

This workshop,was lead by Michael Roth, Archdeacon of the Anglican Diocese of Edmonton and Rev. Dr. Cameron Harder, Executive Director of CiRCLe M. The workshop was an assembly of Judicatories from different denominations. Participants looked at the experiences of church leaders in working with and supporting smaller churches. The emphasis was on peer-sharing and CiRCLe M sharing of options for support of rural ministry.


4. Herding Cats - Engaging Young Adults in a Commuter Culture. Leader: Rev. Tim Wray

Where are all the young people?" we ask, "and what are they into?" As a pastor, a DMin student and a (relatively) young man, Tim Wray has had an invested interest in answering these same questions. A recent project built around this quest culminated in a community photo exhibit that energized the church, brought together the neighbourhood and affirmed the place of young adults in the community.  Tim shared his experiences.

Power Point - Young Adult Photovoice Project (PDF 2.66 MB)

Audio (link)


5. Sharing Worship Resources. Leader: Major Mike Hoeft

Mike Hoeft is a Major in The Salvation Army based out of Melfort, Sk. He and his wife Lee Anne pastor three congregations in a circuit ministry in North East Saskatchewan. In addition to this he is the Rural Ministries Consultant for The Salvation Army in Canada. Mike lead a workshop outlining various ways worship is led and experienced in town/country settings, drawing on the experiences of different people and denominations.

Power Point - Worship Workshop (PDF 816 KB)


6. The Barnabas Experiment: Team Ministry in a Rural Parish, Leaders: Rev. James Enns and Rev. Monica King

When the St. Barnabas congregation bade farewell to their last full-time resident priest, the combination of meeting the rising costs of maintaining a full-time incumbent priest, declining attendance, and the demands of serving a multi-point parish made the prospect of continuing to salary a resident priest unrealistic. Instead of quietly folding their tents and dropping off the diocesan grid, the congregation, in dialogue with their Bishop, began developing an alternative model for team ministry. This model included extensive lay participation and the willingness of the Bishop to ordain members of the congregation. Rev. Enns and Rev. King, Three Hills, AB shared the story of how their church developed the model, as well as a progress report of how the experiment is working to date.

Power Point - The Barnabas Experiment (PDF 49 KB)

The Barnabas Experiment - History (PDF 22 KB)

Handout - St. Barnabas Team Ministry Template (PDF 1.5 MB)

Audio (link)


7. Church Response to Community Disaster. Leader: Rev. Leigh Sinclair

God gives us faith, hope and love as people of Christ.  How do these gifts aid us to help our neighbours and our communities in times of crisis, disaster and violence?  Leigh invited participants to bring together Jesus' teachings, their stories of faith in the midst of crisis, and her stories from Spiritwood SK (RCMP shootings, 2005) and Slave Lake AB (wildfires, 2011).  Rev. Sinclair, St. Peter’s Ecumenical Church.


8. Ecumenical Shared Ministries: A Resource for Rural and Urban Churches. Leaders: Rev. David Jensen and Margaret E. Wist

In an Ecumenical Shared Ministry (ESM), Christians of more than one denomination worship and serve God in a united way while still maintaining their denominational identities and connections. This workshop defined ESM, introduced the research and training roles of the Ecumenical Shared Ministries Bureau and shared the experiences of an ESM pastor. Presenters:  Rev. Jensen-pastor of 'Partners in Worship' - a Lutheran/United ESM at Shell Lake, SK;  Margaret Wist - Project Worker for the Ecumenical Shared Ministries Bureau.

Summary - History of Partners in Worship - Shell Lake (PDF 40 KB)

Speaker's Notes (PDF 12 KB)


9. How Wide is the Chasm? A Wide Area Parish Model. Leader: Rev. Greg Kiel

The Wide Area Parish model of ministry has helped the Southwest Lutheran Parish in Saskatchewan to overcome its geographical hurdles.  No rostered minister wants to serve a five or seven point parish alone.  Rev Kiel shared how this model offers a way of doing ministry that lends itself to the continuity of ministry in rural communities by congregations and leaders working as a team.
"as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah, “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth;" (Luke 3:4-5, NRSV)
Rev. Kiel is Senior Pastor of the Southwest Lutheran Parish and DMin student in Rural Ministry and Community Development.


10. Aboriginal Ministries in a Rural Context. Leader: Major Curtis Butler

Major Butler and his wife had the privilege to minister for 14 years in a First Nations context.  Seven of those were on the reserve and seven in an administrative role overseeing other small rural First Nations ministries.

Early in his ministry he viewed a video of interviews with aboriginal elders and one of the elders spoke this truth that has challenged and informed my ministry ever since.  In talking abou Jesus she said, "When the missionaries came to our people it was not hard for our people to accept the news about Jesus.  It was like we were expecting it.  The problem is, we accepted Jesus but we got the Church."  Keeping in mind that there is no "new leaf" to be magically turned over, pariticipants in the workshop explored teachings that assisted them in the presentation of the Good News for, to and with all people.

Audio (link)


11. The Shared Path of the Young Chippewayan, Mennonite and Lutheran Peoples. Panelist: Ray Funk

Ray Funk grew up in an extended family strongly committed to serving institutions of the church, mutual aid organizations, and the co-operative movement. As a child he first stepped into the First Nations world picking roots and making friends on Beardy’s and Okemasis Willow Cree First Nation. Ray’s adult work life began with the Mennonite Central Committee in London, Ontario. While there he became involved in federal politics, In 1975 he relocated back home to Saskatchewan where much of his work in adult education and economic development has been intertwined with First Nations and Metis communities. 

Ray shared the heartening story of how one Saskatchewan First Nation and two church communities came together to fight for justice in a spirit of mutual respect, caring and help.

Handout: The Young Chippewayan History "Stoney Knoll IR # 107 (pdf 286 KB)

Handout: Remembering Dis-membering: Discipleship, Restorative Justice and the Canadian Truth and Reconcilliation Commission (198 KB)



October 2009 Conference
Rooted in Faith: Celebrating Rural Churches in Community

Lloydminister AB/SK

Theme Speakers

1. Brother David Andrews, CSC, JD, Senior Representative: Food & Water Watch, Senior Advisor to the President of the 63rd UN General Assembly

2. Dittmar Muendel, Associate Director of the Chester Ronning Centre for the Study of Religion and Public Life

  • You have Healed the Wounds of My People Lightly: Finding Genuine Hope Rather than False Optimism for Rural Communities
  • Toward the Healing of Creation: The Crucial Role of Churches in Restoring “Membership” with Land & Community
  • Suggested Readings:
    The Development Dictionary, Wolfgang Sachs (ed)
    The Art of the Commonplace, Wendell Berry, (ed. Norman Wirzba)
    The Unsettling of America, Wendell Berry
    Deep Economy, Bill McKibben
    The Revolution of Hope, Erich Fromm
    When Corporations Rule the World, David Korten