The Rural-Urban Connections Project
To overcome isolation many people in rural churches experience and to make people in urban
aware of how urban and rural issues intersect, The Fig Tree is
its circulation and coverage. Inland Northwest church leaders
voiced concern about issues facing small and rural churches on
trust, survival, individualism and mission. They are also
about such issues as poverty, land use, water rights, global trade,
workers, farm policy, racial diversity, and economic justice. Improved
communications among rural and urban people of faith can help churches
minister more effectively.
The Fig Tree, an monthly ecumenical/interfaith newspaper circulating in the Inland Northwest, provides a forum for exploring such issues and building connections. A recent retreat on “Food, Faith and Sustainable Farming” led to a series of articles and contacts in rural communities. The interest generated makes evident the need to expand coverage of and outreach in rural areas.
By fostering communication among faith and nonprofit groups, The Fig Tree increases understanding and involves people in their communities. Awareness engenders personal contacts, resource sharing and mutual encouragement. It takes only one or two people to pick up an idea and gather a few more to multiply the influence of an article. Empowerment is hard to measure, but we see growth and fruit from seeds The Fig Tree plants.
In 1984, the Spokane Council of Ecumenical Ministries started The Fig Tree as a communications ministry to cover religion news in the region. Most ecumenical publications focus on public relations, so The Fig Tree was an unique from the start. In 2001, The Fig Tree became an independent nonprofit organization, providing regional religion and nonprofit news. By covering “faith in action,” it inspires people to work together for the common good.
Because ecumenism in this region is diffuse, there is much to cover and more need for communication among the various ministries and nonprofits in urban and in rural life. The editor brings both expertise as a professional journalist and sensitivity from local, regional, national and global ecumenical experience. She coordinates the work of a contract and volunteer team which will be expanded to carry out this project.
We anticipate that increased coverage of rural issues will educate people in urban areas to develop solidarity with farmers, farm workers and people concerned about sustainable farming and sustainable small towns. We also hope the coverage will increase solidarity among rural communities.
Believing we have a uniquely effective tool to inspire and connect people in rural and urban churches, we seek to develop more readers in rural and small-town congregations. Currently, we send at least one copy to each church and area nonprofits, bulk quantities to Spokane area churches and nonprofits, and copies to individuals who request to be on the mailing list. Many say The Fig Tree provides coverage that rings true to their experiences and needs.
By increasing readership through distributing 1,000 to 2,000 more copies in the first year, we can expand our effectiveness. Based on our estimate that three people read each copy, we could thus increase our outreach by 3,000 to 6,000 a year. Like public broadcasting, The Fig Tree is available free with an invitation to sponsor. Over the long term, we expect to broaden our base of support, so that rural circulation will be self-supporting.
In summary, by connecting with people in rural communities, we expect to build understanding, cooperation and common action that will strengthen communities in our region.
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