2012, Romania, Rural issues

Churches European Rural Network Visit to Romania, October 2011

Churches European Rural Network Visit to Romania, October 2011

Andrew Bowden

The Visit

We are extremely grateful to Rudi Job for masterminding our visit: without him it would not have been possible. Also, to a remarkable establishment, the Evangelical Academy at Sibiu, whose staff organised our programme. The Academy is very well equipped with excellent accommodation, and it is good to hear that it will host the next meeting of IRCA – Europe in 2012.

With the blessing of IRCA – Europe (International Rural Churches Association – Europe) – Rudi Job and I arranged for a small group to visit rural Romania between 20 and 25 October 2011.The visit was hosted by Dietrich Galter, President of the Academy of Neppendorf, Sibiu.

The programme included:

  • A journey to the ruins of the Cistercian monastery at Kerz (Carta) where we met the parish priest Michael Refer and a representative of the agricultural society.
  • A visit to the summer residence of Baron Samuel von Bruckenthal in Freck which is being restored as a tourist attraction.
  • A visit to Michelsberg to a visit to meet the entreprenneur Michael Henning. (Subject: My village before and now). Meal on a farm.
  • Journey to Mediasch, Pretai and Biertan to see various rural projects linked with local churches.
  • Visit to the old mill in Holzmengen (nice name: literally ‘loads of wood!’)
  • A meeting with Jochen Cotaru in respect of the development project at Harbachtal, the project Natura 2000, and certain individual projects in the village (for example restoration of the old village mill).
  • A visit to the service in a village parish (Grossau or Reussdoerfchen). After the service a conversation with representatives of the parish and their work with the Gipsy community.
  • A visit to the ‘shepherd-village’ Sibiel, the museum of icons ‘Zosim Oancea’.
  • A meeting with a representative of the regional agency for tourism, concentrating on possibilities for developing tourism in rural areas.
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2010, Latvia, Rural issues

Churches European Rural Network Visit to Latvia

Churches European Rural Network Visit to Latvia
5-9 May 2010

Andrew Bowden

Our visit was organised by Aris Adler of the Rural Forum for Latvia who did a wonderful job on our behalf. We are most grateful to him and his colleagues who gave so freely of their time. Also to Rudi Job who – once again – set up the initial contact and guided us through the programme.

In Riga we visited and heard about Rural Forum Latvia, the Diakonia Centre of the Latvian Lutheran Church and the Latvian YMCA/YWCA. In the area of Sigulda we were deep in the Latvian countryside, and here we met farmers, rural church members and a number of rurally-based voluntary organisations. It was a rich and varied experience. These are my major impressions.


The total population of Latvia is 2.3 million, of whom 850,000 live in Riga. Up to a half of the population is Russian-speaking. There are approx 1.2 children per family only.

A History of Suffering

The Latvian people have suffered throughout their history. Having been fought over and subjugated for centuries, they finally became an independent nation in 1918. There was an immediate flowering of culture – poetry, novels, dance and above all the sumptuous Art Nouveau architecture of Riga that is probably the finest in the world, along with Napier in New Zealand.

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2008, Rural issues

Report on the European Rural Conference “Facing into Change”, 1-4 September 2008

Report on the European Rural Conference “Facing into Change”

Held 1st -4th September 2008 at the
Evangelische Landjugendakademie in Altenkirchen, Germany

40 delegates of the Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant Churches, representing 19 different countries, attended the Conference.

Monday 1st September

The conference began with worship led by the Swiss group. We were summoned to worship by the alpenhorn. The group led us in a celebration of our many languages, and included items in everything from Hebrew to Finnish.

Eberhard Cherdron, the President of the Evangelische Kirche der Pfalz, welcomed the conference. He explained to the participants that the place where the meeting was taking place was the centre of the rural thinking for the church nationally, and he was especially pleased to welcome the conference in the 50th anniversary of the centre’s creation. He outlined the current focus for the church in Germany, namely the importance of Church buildings and other church institutions such as school and social care. He spoke of the challenges being faced as numbers decline especially in rural areas, and the importance of worship and being alongside people in their moments of crisis. He expressed his hopes that the next few days would be the start of something important.

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