Pastor Stephen Jaensch, who serves St John’s Lutheran Church Emerald in Queensland’s Central Highlands region, says he’d noticed the lack of a genuinely rural devotion resource among the many on offer in Australia.
So, in about 2014, he began encouraging the congregation to join him in producing something to serve country people and provide a resource for rural ministry. Pastor Stephen believes he asked members once a year for four years whether they would get behind such a project. The fifth time he asked, they said ‘yes’.
The resulting 204-page book of 118 devotions – Rural Reflections: Living out front with the outback God – was launched by the congregation recently and ‘far exceeded’ Pastor Stephen’s hopes for the project.
Emerald congregation has an average worship attendance of about 20 people and around 50 members. However, while St John’s is not large, Pastor Stephen says it has ‘very talented people’.
The Emerald Lutheran family drove the devotion project, including arranging photography, contributors, printing and publicity, but it was also an ecumenical production, with people from eight denominations involved.
‘When the congregation went with it, they carried it far further than I ever imagined’, Pastor Stephen says. ‘Most of the congregation became involved. What really pleased me was that a lot of the younger families became involved.’
Among the 30 contributors, 19 were from St John’s. Eight of the writers are clergy, while 22 are laypeople.
‘It’s designed to cover every circumstance unique to the country’, Pastor Stephen said of the book, which includes sections entitled ‘Rain’, ‘Farming, agriculture and regional industries’, ‘Drought’, and ‘Family life’.
Rural Reflections is available for $20 (to cover production costs) at www.emerald.lutheran.org.au
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