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Our History

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In 1993, a small group of international rural church leaders gathered in England to celebrate 21 years of the Arthur Rank Centre. This ecumenical centre is the focus for the rural work of all the churches of Great Britain and helps the churches understand their rural context much more clearly. Plans were made for a future international conference.

“Rural Culture and Spirituality” was the theme of the conference held in Durham, England in August 1998. About 100 people from a variety of countries attended and at the end of the Conference the International Rural Church Ecumenical Association, as it was then called, was established (IRCEA).

The first Secretary of the association was Michael Cruchley, the Director of the Arthur Rank Centre at the time. Lloyd Vidler, a minister with the Uniting Church of Australia, was appointed the first Chairperson.

A Council for World Mission school in South Africa in 1999 and a meeting of overseas participants of the Trans-Tasman Rural Ministry Conference in Northland, New Zealand in 2000 helped links develop further. The Rev B.D. Prasada Rao was at each of these and through his efforts and encouragement, the Church of South India became the host for the second conference in Chennai, November 2002. The theme of this conference set a theme that would carry through into the future for IRCA: “Voice of the Voiceless”.

The proposed 2006 3rd conference in Korea did not proceed, but Rev Catherine Christie and the Canadian Rural Churches Network entered the breach and agreed to host the third conference in Brandon, Manitoba, July 2007. Its theme was “Cry from the Heart”.

The 4th Conference held in Altenkirchen, Germany in September, 2010, saw IRCA take its next step in adopting a constitution and seeking greater “legitimacy” and connection with denominations and the World Council of Churches. The theme of this conference was “Hunger – The Global Challenge”, an issue that was impacting Europe within its own countries and, in relation to migration and post-colonial responsibilities, from the South.

The 5th conference was in Lilongwe, Malawi in July 2014, with the theme “Holding on to Hope”. At this event the CEO of the Arthur Rank Centre, Jerry Marshall. was appointed Chair. In 2016, for administrative simplicity, the committee asked the Arthur Rank Centre to hold and manage the accounts under the supervision of the IRCA Executive Treasurer.

The 6th conference, “Growing Together” was held in April 2018 in Lincoln, New Zealand. As well as two excellent key notes, we took a learning community approach and provided the 100 delegates with the material to be adapted for their own context. The local team were superb and the event was very enthusiastically received. Rev Dr Mark Yackel-Juleen was appointed Chair.

The 7th conference, “Flourishing: Land, People, Community”, was held in April 2023 in Dubuque, Iowa, USA. Originally planned for 2022, Covid-19 interrupted travel plans, as well as budgets. In 2022 a ZOOM alternative was arranged, aligned with the annual Rural Ministry Conference at Wartburg Seminary in Dubuque, with people from around the world joining in to share stories, prayer, and song as we moved with the sun around the world in 24 hours. The 2023 face-to-face conference also aligned with the Wartburg Seminary’s annual rural conference, enabling part of the time to be a joint event, with considerable enriching of experience for the locals. Dr Heather Major was appointed Chair at the Dubuque conference and the hope was that the next gathering would return to the 4-yearly routine in 2026.

Mind Your Own (Small) Business – International Edition

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Jerry Marshall, former chair of IRCA and chair of TEN – Transformational Enterprise Network – has just released an International Edition of this training kit for setting up a business. Click on the image to access the workbook.

The catchphrase for TEN is “create and develop impact businesses to fight poverty”. This is a valuable tool for struggling rural communities wherever they are in the world.

Rural Chaplaincy

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A new page has been added to our Resources section. Check it out here

Travelling a rural road

Quadrennial conference updates

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A reminder that the registration/payment deadline is March 27.  The transportation gas surcharge of $75 is also due at this time. Your registration will be cancelled if full payment or other arrangements have not been made by that date.

All persons will need to show proof of a covid-10 vaccination to enter the U.S.  More information as to what type of proof is needed can be found here.

Please send your flight arrangements as soon as you have them.  They can be entered on the form found here.  If you need to stay additional days because of the flight schedule, you are responsible for paying for those nights even if you have received a scholarship.  A payment portal will be up shortly.

Make sure you have a valid US visa or a valid ESTA (mostly European Countries).  You will not be allowed to enter the US without one.

If you have any questions, please email [email protected]

We are looking forward to seeing everyone and are praying that your trips will go smoothly.


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The next IRCA quadrennial meeting will be from April 13- 19 in Dubuque, Iowa, United States of America.  Located in America’s heartland on the banks of the Mississippi River, Dubuque has been voted one of America’s best small cities and has won several environmental awards. 

The theme this year is Flourishing:  Land, People and Community. The Bible tells us that God is a God of abundance, yet many of us live in settings/contexts that emphasize scarcity. Can we get beyond the numbers to share the stories of God’s abundance among us?

Highlights of the program include:

              A three day joint conference with the Wartburg Lutheran Seminary’s Center for Theology and Land Rural Ministry Conference. (April 15 -18, 2023.)

              Field trips and excursions options include (subject to confirmation):  a city tour of Dubuque, a narrated Mississippi River Cruise, a visit to New Melleray Abbey (sustainable forestry practices),  and the Four Mounds Conference Center.

              Meeting people from around the world who share a common interest in rural ministry.

              Spending the weekend (April 14 & 15) visiting and worshipping with a regional rural family.

We will be staying at the Best Western Dubuque.  Registration costs are USD1,000 if paid by November 30, 2022 and includes all housing, meals, local transportation and excursions.  The registration site should be open sometime in early September.

I hope you will be able to come.

Rev. Dr. Mark Yackel-Juleen

Open Access Laudato Si’ Integral Theology Collection

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Check out the new website of the Laudato Si’ Research Institute.

To quote the website:

In Laudato Si’, Pope Francis emphasised the importance of a united, global response to the current ecological crisis. Yet dialogue and learning on integral ecology is often hindered by limited access to the academic publications on the subject, which are not affordable for many individuals and institutions in lower-income countries.

Check it out by clicking on this link

World Environment Day

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The Christian Conference of Asia’s General Secretary Dr Mathews George Chunakara has issued a statement on behalf of CCA for World Environment Day 5 June 2022. It can be accessed at this link

IRCA2022 Sharing Stories and Prayer Around the World

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Rev Dr Mark Jackel-Juleen introduces the 2022 ZOOM event and invites us all to the planned face t0 face conference in Dubuque, Iowa USA in 2023.

IRCA 2022 Round the World

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Networking for prayer and conversation

with video, worship and presentations

7-8 March 2022 

Because we are unable to meet face to face this year for our regular Quadrennial Conference, the IRCA Leadership decided to set up a 24 hour opportunity to connect and pray together as rural churches around the world. We will be online on ZOOM for the whole 24 hours which means that anywhere in the world you can join at a time that suits you.

The Lutheran Seminary’s Center for Theology and Land in Dubuque, Iowa, USA is hosting its regular annual rural ministry conference and our plan is to link up to their opening sessions. (This Seminary is where IRCA 2022 was originally going to be held, now postponed to 13-20 April 2023.) The Rev Dr Mark Yackel-Juleen, Director for Small Town and Rural Ministry at the Center and Chairperson of IRCA will open the ZOOM session at 1500GMT. Following this will be Bible Study led by Dr Craig Nessan and the Keynote Speaker Rev Melanie Mullen. Heather Major from IRCA’s Leadership Group will lead us in a time of prayer and connecting and then we will head off around the world, an hour at a time, in different countries moving west around the globe.

People from anywhere in the world can join us on ZOOM during the 24 hours: you can come and go as you wish. Click here for the detailed programme and REGISTER to be ready to receive the ZOOM link prior to the start.

Connecting Communities in Prayer

Networking across cultures and borders


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The latest edition of the Australian rural ministry magazine Ruminations is now available. Click here to access from this website. Or go to source where you can also access earlier editions.

The theme for this Spring/Summer 2021 edition is “RENEWING”. In his introduction editor Mark Faulkner says, “Each of our contributors have, completely independently of each other, reminded us that renewing is a particular occurrence that takes place outside of the ordinary. It is in Sabbath. grief, loss, seeking, honesty, separation, and discernment that the seeds of renewing can be planted. Renewing, as our authors tell us, comes with an element of surprise and is a gift to us, even a divine blessing and does not come without work, struggle, effort and yet is a human responsibility.”

Take a read and be inspired. However different your context may be, there will be something that connects for sure. For that is the nature of the gospel.