Yet, even as they face great challenges, North Carolina’s rural areas are home to some of the state’s most vibrant ministries, says Jeremy Troxler, director of Thriving Rural Communities, a Divinity School-based program that works to support and strengthen rural congregations.
“Sometimes there is a view that we don’t have much in rural North Carolina””that it is a place of barrenness, loneliness and loss of economic opportunity,” says Troxler D’02.
“But it also is a place of beauty and abundance.”
Consider Solid Rock United Methodist Church, which opened in 2001 in Spout Springs, just a few miles north of Fort Bragg, the U.S. Army base near Fayetteville. Worship attendance at the church, housed in a blue metal building, has grown from a single family to more than 300 on most Sundays.
Rev. Gil Wise D’88, who has led Solid Rock United Methodist Church since its founding in 2001.Solid Rock’s ministries include two daycare programs; Angel Food, a pantry that feeds nearly 500 people each week; and a prison ministry that reaches 240 inmates. At a time when churches worry about aging parishioners, Solid Rock’s congregation, which includes many military families, has a growing membership of those 20 or younger.
“Part of my job is to inspire people to believe that they can do big things right where they are,” says Gil Wise D’88, lead pastor at Solid Rock. “They’re making a difference in the Kingdom, and they don’t have to go to a bigger place for that.”