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Rural Church in America.

1. “Rural ch.” is a distinctive and descriptive term. Its thrust is geog. and demographic; denotes a nonurban ch. or group of chs. The term was coined early in the 20th c. as Am. began to move from an agricultural and rural to an industrial and urban soc. As definition and lines of demarcation became clear, so also the distinction bet. urban and rural ch. The census definition of “rural,” which included communities of less than 2,500 pop., was followed for many yrs. (at least into the 1930s) by many chs.

2. After WW II, “rural ch.” came to be replaced by “Ch. in Town and Country,” the latter term counteracting the implicaton that “rural” chs. were only in open country and removing the 2,500 pop. limit. Some chs. in communities as large as 5,000–25,000 were more rural than urban. Today there is no uniformity of definition or demarcation bet. rural and urban chs.

3. Luth. and most other Prot. chs. in Am. were predominantly rural till the 20th c.

4. As industrialization and urbanization grew, rural chs. supplied urban and suburban chs. with mems. and the denominations with ministers.

5. To meet new problems that arose when immigration and homesteading practically ceased early in the 20th c., rural ch. commissions were appointed and some schools offered courses in rural sociol. for ch. leadership.

6. Since ca. 1940, revolutionary methods in farming resulted in larger farms and less farmers. Rural to urban migration increased, leaving many rural areas with a static or declining pop. and ch. membership. Rural chs. sought strength by various measures, e.g., mergers.

7. Modern transportation eliminated the need for many rural chs.; more than 1,000 disbanded.

8. Urban sprawl surrounded some rural chs., which mushroomed as a result.

9. The challenge of reaching many unreached in low density but widely scattered pop. areas has not been completely met. But rural ch. work has been effective and promises to continue as an important part of the contemporary scene. RJS

C. De Vries, Inside Rural America: A Lutheran View (Chicago, 1962); E. W. Mueller and G. C. Ekola, The Silent Struggle for Mid-America (Minneapolis, Minnesota, 1963); V. Obenhaus, The Church and Faith in Mid-America (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1963): New Thousands in Town and Country (Chicago, 1962).

Edited by: Erwin L. Lueker, Luther Poellot, Paul Jackson
©Concordia Publishing House, 2000, All rights Reserved. Reproduced with Permission

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The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod

Original Editions ©Copyright 1954, 1975, 2000
Concordia Publishing House
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Content Reproduced with Permission

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