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Rural Life Sunday – May 21, 2023

Rural Life Sunday is celebrated on the third Sunday of May but in many regions, it’s observed on different days. The holiday, which falls on May 21 this year, is classified as a Special Sunday by the United Methodist Church and is one of four holidays observed throughout the year. It recognizes that this church was built by hard-working farmers and that their livelihood and existence were made possible only through God’s grace. Often, a harvest festival is celebrated in conjunction with Rural Life Sunday and it makes for a fun day that stays true to its history!

History of Rural Life Sunday

Rural Life Sunday is a day decided on during the Methodist Church General Conference, an annual conference of church leaders who meet to discuss how and when occasions like this (as well as Special Sundays) should be celebrated.

The United Methodist Church celebrates Rural Life Sunday to pay tribute to its roots in the rural areas of America before the holiday became the global movement we know today.

The Methodist Church started as pocket congregations within the Anglican Church. What set them apart were the ministers who were tasked to deliver sermons. A man by the name of John Wesley was the first well-known minister who was traveling the American countryside in the 18th century. His goal was to serve the people of his community in whatever way he could. The towns he visited at that time had no grand cathedrals or even actual churches, but this situation did not deter him. Instead, Wesley delivered his sermons in barns, farmhouses, and even open fields. As long as Wesley and his fellow ministers had an audience, they didn’t care where they delivered their sermons.

It was in these modest farmhouses and sweeping fields that the United Methodist Church was founded. It was classified as an entire subset within the Christian religion as it branched out from Protestantism.

Rural Life Sunday is a fitting tribute to leaders and ministers in the rural community who have shown love and concern for God’s creation asking for his blessing upon the earth and manifesting their faith in Divine Providence.

Rural Life Sunday timeline

1744
Methodism Becomes Official

Methodism becomes an officially recognized religion as declared in a religious conference.

1784
First Methodist Church

Wesley establishes the first Methodist Church in the U.S. on February 28.

1939
Methodist Branches Unify

The three main branches of Methodism in America unite under the Methodist Church.

1968
The United Methodist Church is Recognized

The United Methodist Church is officially recognized as the combination of several different Methodist strands.

Rural Life Sunday FAQs

What are Rural Life Sunday sermons like?

These sermons are structured by officials at the annual conference but usually consist of a series of hymns that worship and give thanks to the land and God’s blessings upon it.

Does my church celebrate Rural Life Sunday?

If your church falls under the United Methodist Church, then yes, your church celebrates this holiday.

When was the first Rural Life Sunday?

It is unclear when this holiday was first celebrated but it has been observed for many years in the entire 200-year history of the United Methodist Church (though the church did so without an official name for the holiday).

Rural Life Sunday Activities

  1. Go to church

    Celebrating Rural Life Sunday with the rest of your congregation is a big part of the holiday. After all, you wouldn’t be there without each other!

  2. Enjoy the fruits of your labor

    Taking a moment to enjoy what your local community and farmers produce is an excellent way to celebrate. Support shops that sell local produce or visit a farmers market.

  3. Teach your kids

    If you have kids, this is the perfect time to teach them about the history of Methodism and why it matters. Tell them that Rural Life Sunday is a day to remember the modest beginnings of this religion.

5 Facts About Methodism That Will Surprise You

  1. There are millions of Methodists

    Globally, the United Methodist Church has 12,719,550 members; of this number, 6,487,300 reside in the U.S.

  2. Wesley coined “agree to disagree”

    Wesley coined the term “agree to disagree” in one of his writings where he reported that he and another pastor disagreed rather passionately.

  3. “Methodist” was a derogatory nickname

    The word “Methodist” was originally used to make fun of how the original practitioners went about expressing their faith, but they simply took it in stride and saw it as a positive thing.

  4. Wesley was an Anglican

    Wesley remained an Anglican until his passing.

  5. Korean Methodism has 1.5 million members

    Despite talk of Methodism slackening in Western countries, the religion has taken root in Korea and has grown into a congregation that’s currently 1,500,000-strong.

Why We Love Rural Life Sunday

  1. It celebrates a church’s humble beginnings

    The story of how the Methodist Church started is one of hope, quiet dignity, and hard work. All these make for a wonderful, strong foundation.

  2. We love the outdoors

    Although it’s not mandatory for Rural Life Sunday to be an outdoor affair, it’s highly encouraged and we love that. There’s no better way to spend your Sunday than being out in the sun with people you love.

  3. It’s a chance to be together

    It gives you time to spend with your congregation and community. Celebrating your shared history is always a good chance to build stronger relationships.

Rural Life Sunday dates

YearDateDay
2022May 15Sunday
2023May 21Sunday
2024May 19Sunday
2025May 18Sunday
2026May 17Sunday

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