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God of the Whenua: Rural Ministry in Aotearoa New Zealand

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By Bill Bennett

The rural church has been profoundly affected by economic and social change, and by theological and liturgical revolution in the wider church. How have these forces for change affected rural congregations in Aotearoa New Zealand, and where are they heading in future?

Bill Bennett looks in depth at the traditional churches that still maintain a rural presence and their ministries — Methodist, Roman Catholic, Presbyterian and Anglican. He includes revealing profiles of several parishes and rohe (Maori districts).

While he writes from a Pakeha perspective, Bennett also honours the unique theology and flavour of the Maori church. Bennett develops a theology of land in Aotearoa New Zealand, and a theology of mission and ministry that may be seen as a starting point for all who minister in rural areas. He flags the issues and developments that the rural church is facing and will meet in coming years.

Underpinning this book is the hopeful message that parishes who accept the need for change, and are willing to adapt and respond to the needs of their community, can not only survive but thrive into future.

Now released in eBook format, this will be a valuable resource for rural clergy and lay leaders, theological college tutors and students, and all who are interested in rural ministry, both in New Zealand and in other countries.

“This publication will stand as a definitive survey of rural ministry. As a source of inspiration for the future of the small, local church in rural New Zealand, it is essential reading.” John Bluck, Bishop of Waiapu, 2005

About the Author

Bill Bennett comes from a Southern Hawke’s Bay farming background.

He has served much of his ministry as an Anglican priest in rural parishes in the Diocese of Waiapu as well as in the Norwich and Lichfield Dioceses in England. He worked as Ministry Enabler and twice as Regional Dean in Hawke’s Bay between 1994 and 2015.

His interest in rural communities is reflected in his publications: God of the Whenua (an overview of rural ministry in New Zealand), Seasons of the Land and The Shepherd’s Call (both being prayers and liturgies for rural communities). He continues to write hymns and songs (words and music).

He is on the Editorial Board of the international periodical, Rural Theology. Till its demise recently he was tutor in Rural Ministry Studies for the Ecumenical Institute for Distance Theological Studies (EIDTS).

He and his wife Wendy live in retirement in Napier, New Zealand.
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