Making a Life from a Living in a Rural Church

Post Author: Amber Inscore Essick

Parsonage flowers in May of 2017 next to Port Royal Baptist Church

They will invite you to

live with them, really

live with them. Do, if you can.

You will learn, in time,

a spirituality

with a little give to it.

How else can the people live

between variable sky

and forgiving earth,

and belong to both,

and to one another?


Your salary, which will be

considerably smaller

Than some of your urban

or suburban counterparts,

but measurably larger

than some who pay it,

must go to good.  It should

stay, as much as possible

in the community where you work,

Local doctors, local food

from farmers you love,

or will grow to love

as you learn from them

how to taste and see

that the Lord is good,

the place is good, the

hands reaching out to

you are good, and

they mean you well.


Your work, which will not be more,

if you are well-loved,

than what they ask of themselves,

will be seasonal.

And you must learn to trust

the gifts of each season,

and plan for spring, as

your people do. And trust, foremost,

that seasons do and must pass,

that weathering them will

strengthen all the best

in you.


Despair might set in if you let it.

Do not let it.

Determine in your own mind

to go out and find the good

in your people, in your place,

and in your life together.

Trust that it will be together

that you will see the Lord.


Your call, and your fellow workers, and

the culture around you will shock you.

Let it. And yet,

explore each inner scandal in

your heart with love.

Make no quick decisions.

Bless people as they come

and if they should go.

Those who return

and those who fall away

will surprise you.


It will take years, but not

as many as you suppose

before you can be the prophet

dancing, as you must,

along and across and back past

the line that marks outsider

from insider. [Stay years.]

And if you stay, you

will learn to speak the

dialect, and yet

you must introduce

new words, but,

with a little wisdom,

the right ones.


Do not hide your faults,

but neither neglect them.

Yet, working around the

faults of another

can be for you and yours a source

of dignity, not shame.


Remember that people

will not change. And yet,

sometimes people change.


You will witness both

renewal and

erosion in your place,

and you are responsible

to hold in your hands

what is being lost,

what must be ushered in,

and to collect the seeds that

must be saved

for the place to endure.


And hope, you must hold out hope,

that the wisdom offered,

and that which you absorb,

take into yourself,

and carry on, is true enough

to last and to keep.

Trust that the place will keep,

that it has keepers,

and that you are becoming

one of them, but not

the only one.


Listen and speak in turn.

Always in turn.

Amber Inscore Essick and her husband John co-pastor Port Royal Baptist Church, a rural congregation along the Kentucky River. Her three children, Olin, Leif, and Wren, ensure that there is no shortage of questions, laughter, singing, or shenanigans in and around the church.

Image by: Amber Inscore Essick
Used with permission
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