Liturgy 32.4: Liturgy in Rural Settings

This issue was guest-edited by Gilson Waldkoenig. Gilson Waldkoenig, PhD, is the Paulssen-Hale-Maurer Professor of Church in Society and Director of the Town and Country Church Institute ( at the Gettysburg campus of United Lutheran Seminary in Pennsylvania.

Here is an excerpt from Waldkoenig's introduction:

In the following pages, you will hear about liturgy welcoming and holding those whose risk of suicide is high; about liturgy’s capacity to hold sorrow and proclaim hope in a strip-mined landscape; about a sense of home discovered in rural Quaker quietness; and the power of funeral liturgy in a place wracked with economic challenge. You will read about the continuity liturgy brings to those who serve bivocationally in a small church and in secular employment. You will find creative liturgies for ecological reconnection in different settings and new ways to help people express grief over social, ecological, and personal changes that often are heavy unspoken burdens. Finally, the collection ends with a vision of a new kind of worship gathering, centered on faith and food in the wake of what author Wendell Berry called the “unsettling” of rural America.

Rural churches make up nearly half of the Christian congregations in North America. Many of them are small outposts, but are the only representative of liturgical traditions for miles around. Long gone are the days when the rural population presented any kind of normativity. Today, many rural churches may have long histories but are waking up to the fact that they are deployed missions out in the fields.

As this volume will show, liturgical practices are the top resource churches have for meeting a changed and challenging landscape. And liturgical practices still evoke, name, and remember the deep Eucharistic connections in the elements all around, as Virgil Michel and these authors gathered in this volume have affirmed.

David Turnbloom