Today, rural America’s problems go much deeper than uncertainty over the price of grain or the latest weather forecast. Rural America is becoming a wasteland for lost souls on drugs. They find cheap old, semi-abandoned farmhouses to rent, and either waste away, cook the meth, or use the opioids that eventually kill them. In either case, their children suffer, sometimes tragically. Can the rural church make a difference?
It had been over 50 years since I last entered the doors of Tipton Community Church, a rural Michigan congregation whose building testifies to the influence of its New England Congregationalist roots. Around the time I graduated from elementary to junior high school in 1963, our family had drifted away. The pressures of part-time farming, on top of full-time factory work, were too much for my father. The fact that the church hired a theologically liberal Congregational pastor was incidental to our departure.