Rural Mission Solutions is a relatively new name for a mission organisation that was established in 1988 but whose roots go back 25 years before that. From 1988 to 2010 it was known as Rural Sunrise.
From 1963 to 1988 Barry Osborne, the co-founder of Rural Mission Solutions, was part of a team ministry that conducted short term evangelistic outreaches at the request of village churches. Anything from 8 to 15 missions were undertaken each year in various parts of the UK.
Many of these also provided training for men and women following their time in Theological Colleges. The core team was four people with exceptional communication skills. Many of these missions were remarkably effective but a casual remark made towards the end of one of these missions in Cumbria led to a serious re-think of strategies. During an informal evening meeting where around 30 people had crowded into a home a woman turned to the vicar and said, "Well, vicar, I don't know what we are going to do next week with only you to entertain us!" It was a question about sustainability.
Valuable as these outreaches were the work was rarely sustainable afterwards. Also if the evangelisation of thousands of small rural communities was dependent upon such external "expert" ministry the task would never be completed. It was also giving a limited understanding regarding evangelism methods.
With the establishment of Rural Sunrise in1988 came the opportunity to launch a fresh approach, drawing not only on Barry's past mission experience but also on his experience as a trainer and organisational management. It was also a time of theological reflection.
In 1989 the first opportunity of employing the new methods came with a mission in Norfolk at the request of a local Anglican Church. It was profoundly successful. Soon afterwards, Barry was invited to work within the Diocese of Portsmouth, for two years encouraging rural parishes to become missional.
In late 1990 an invitation came to take on the pastoral oversight of a small rural Congregational church in East Sussex. The church had a congregation in single figures but answering that call also provided an opportunity to put the theories into practice within a part time pastorate while continuing to exercise a wider ministry. Again the results were very encouraging and the church grew to a core congregation of around 40 people, plus a youth congregation, a major local community mission, a monthly fresh expression type event, and two young couples working in mission overseas. All this while remaining essentially a local village church - of the village and for the village.
The passion to help small and rural churches discover their potential in God's mission is as strong as ever. We continue to seek partner churches willing to work through this unique enabling process to develop tailored mission strategies. We are also now looking for men and women - preferably with pastoral experience - who would like to train as facilitators on this process.