Wednesday, March 3, 2021


40th Annual Rural Ministry Conference 

March 8, 2021

Engaging and Ministry with Cultural Traditionalists 

Online Zoom, Wartburg Theological Seminary


for more information -

We live in a deeply divided society with divisions along political, social, cultural, urban/rural lines.  This conference will be helpful for pastors who see these divisions in their communities and congregations and are looking for ways to minister to all people.

Our keynote Speaker Tex Sample will explore this division by looking at a key demographic, cultural traditionalists.  Cultural traditionalists are the largest demographic in rural America and one of the largest in the country. This demographic is not limited by age, gender, or denomination –who knows- you may be a cultural traditionalist.

The presentations of Tex Sample will provide a description of this important group and offer suggestions for working with cultural traditionalists.  These presentations are valuable not only for small town and rural congregations but will provide a greater understanding of this demographic found in many, if not most, congregations.

The Rev. Dr. Tex Sample brings years of ministry experience, teaching and research to this topic.  His most recent books include A Christian Justice for the Common Good, and Working Class Rage: A Field Guide to White Anger and Pain.  Tex Sample has participated throughout his career in both the church and the community, with a focus on social, racial, gender, and economic justice issues, community organizing, and interfaith movements.  He has been one of the best received presenters at the Rural Ministry Conference. See his tab for more information.

The 40th Rural Ministry Conference will be held via Zoom on Monday, March 8, 2021. 

Leaders and Speakers

Keynote Speaker: The Rev. Dr. Tex Sample became pastor of Trinity United Methodist Church in Kansas City, Missouri in July 2018. He previously served this congregation on an interim basis in 2014. Sample is the Robert B. And Kathleen Rogers Professor Emeritus of Church and Society at The Saint Paul School of Theology where he taught for 32 years. He holds a B.A. degree from Millsaps College, an M.Div. from the Boston University School of Theology, a Ph.D. from the Boston University Graduate School. and a D.D. from Coe College. Sample is a freelance lecturer and speaker in North America and overseas. He has published 14 books. His book, Blue Collar Ministry: Facing Economic and Social Realities of Working People, was named a “Judson Classic” by the Judson Press, and his book U.S. Lifestyles and Mainline Churches was the bestseller for Westminster/John Knox Press for over two years. His most recent books A Christian Justice for the Common Good and Working Class Rage: A Field Guide to White Anger and Pain, are both available from Abingdon Press. Sample has participated throughout his career in both the church and the community, with a focus on social, racial, and economic justice issues, community organizing, and interfaith movements. In 2016, he received the Invictus Award for Social Justice from the Liberty, Missouri, Martin Luther King, Jr. Committee at its celebration of MLK Day; later that year, he was given The Equality and Justice Award by The Greater Metropolitan the world meeting of his denomination.

Sample was born and grew up in Brookhaven, Mississippi, and as a young man drove a cab, worked in construction, and was a roustabout in the oilfield. Sample is married to Peggy Jo Sanford Sample, who is a water- media artist and a musician. They have three children, one of whom is deceased. “Tex” is his real name, not a nickname. His father named him after Texanna Gillham, an African American woman who lived near Shelbyville, Texas.

    Bible Study Leader: Rev. Dr. Richard J. Shaffer Jr., is the Senior Pastor and Head of Staff of the Oswego Presbyterian Church in Oswego, Illinois, a diverse, hybrid congregation with parallel ministries in the western suburbs of Chicago and the rural landscape of north-central Illinois. He has also served rural congregations in Iowa and Minnesota. His blog,, provides resources and guidance for church leaders who are interested in transforming the work and mission of their rural congregations in the midst of a time of intense transition in the church.

    Prior to returning to the pastorate in 2017, Skip served for twelve years as Associate Dean and Assistant Professor of Ministry at the University of Dubuque Theological Seminary, where he had the opportunity to share his experience with men and women who were learning to become leaders in the church. He has taught classes in rural ministry, Reformed worship, clergy ethics, Presbyterian polity, and ministry and money, as well as a number of other ministry related subjects. His responsibilities at the seminary also included serving as Director of Distance Education, Director of the D.Min. program, Director of Continuing Education and Lifelong Learning, and Director of Seminary Programs. He has been a part of the seminary’s successful lay pastor education program and continues to teach classes online each year.

    Skip’s wife, Jaimie, serves as Circulation Supervisor at the University of Dubuque Library. They have two adult children, a twelve year old granddaughter who runs the household, thirteen chickens, and a lively golden retriever named Brinkley.

    Workshop Leader: Jennifer Prinz is Portico Benefit Services’ regional representative covering the ELCA Region 5  (Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Upper Peninsula of Michigan). Jennifer has more than 25 years of communications and relationship-building experience, in both faith-based and health care organizations. She previously worked as a gift planner for the ELCA Foundation, serving the state of Illinois. Prior to that, she was Director of Professional Development at St. Ambrose University in Davenport, Iowa.

Thursday, January 14, 2021

'Twas the Month Before Covid

We have all been dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic in our own ways. As the months have passed it has been amazing how we and our congregations have discovered new ways of being the church. The work never stops, it just transforms. And God is always there.

In the past, online resources were seen as luxuries used by larger churches with more resources. Today we all rely on digital tools to do our work. Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Zoom and Livestream are no longer a mystery, but words that populate our daily vocabulary and help us do our ecclesial work. Small and rural churches, more than ever before, have been reminded that distance is not an obstacle, but a fact of life that we have worked around. Even when we cannot safely visit in the homes of our members, we have found a way to bring the church into their homes on a regular basis, in worship, Bible study, Sunday School, Virtual Coffee Hours, and dozens of new creations that enable us to do our work and encourage the recognition of God's presence in our everyday lives.

Someday (soon hopefully) the virus will be but a memory. But the steps we have taken to build the church and the new tools that we find at our disposal will continue to be a part of our work and worship.

Last month I wrote a satirical poem about our life with the virus as a way of helping our church to celebrate the victories we have had during this difficult time. It was meant to be fun and a little bit silly, but when the service was done it felt that we had done exactly what God wanted us to do that day.  

With apologies to Longfellow and Dr. Seuss and anyone else who takes poetry seriously, I thought I would share it with you today. 

‘Twas the Month Before Covid

             by Skip Shaffer

‘Twas the month before Covid came and all through the town,
Nothing new was really happening, not a thing going down.
We were all quiet as we lived on our own,
After Christmas and New Years no virus had shown.

It’s amazing how much you take for granted in life,
Until you are separated from your kids and your wife.
Along came the Super Bowl and we started to hear,
That a virus from China had found its way here.

By the end of February so many were sick,
That by the middle of March we were in it too thick.
We were closed down real tight, like a people embargo.
Unless you were a protestor or the mayor of Chicago.

No restaurants, no parties, no large groups or closed spaces,
No workouts, no gyms, and no working type places.
Worst of all came the news that our Worship was closed.
We had never seen such a time, when our faith was exposed.

Our church was closed down, our youth groups had no room,
And the only way we could really meet was by Zoom.
All the things that we loved, like mission trips and Green Lake,
Were cancelled for the first time, it was too much to take.

We had to wear masks and stay six feet away,
And even the session had no place to play.
Through Easter and confirmation and into the summer,
This church quarantine had turned into a bummer.

And then we discovered the most amazing thing,
That our faith didn’t need a sanctuary to ring.
We worshipped at home, we watched on TV,
Even though we were separated, there was so much to see.

The song leaders sang, and the instruments played.
The video and sound and tech guys all stayed.
The pastor, he read from that same Holy Book,
And he preached over and over ‘til it finally took.

Our communion was different, our confirmation recorded,
But the Spirit never let our faith be distorted.
The politicians they rambled, told stories and lied,
We didn’t believe them, no matter how hard we tried.

They told us the virus, it soon would be gone,
But it didn’t seem to really matter which one of them won.
The virus, it stayed, after the commercials were finished,
A vaccine is coming, we’re told, but our faith is diminished.

We still are kept out of our worshipping spaces,
Looking ahead to the day when we can see familiar faces.
Yet our God is stronger than the virus, we don’t lose our hope.
Through racism, elections, and murder hornets we cope.

The church remains strong, no matter what problems we face,
Our worship is faithful, in spite of the place.
That day will soon be here, if we can hang on,
Have hope. In just a few days, 2020 will be gone.

- Pastor Skip Shaffer
  Oswego Presbyterian Church
  December 27, 2020