The 41st Annual Rural Ministry Conference 2023

April 16-18, 2023
Best Western Hotel and Conference Center, Dubuque, Iowa

Registration Opens December 5, 2022
Watch this space for additional information as it becomes available.

Theme: Flourishing: Land, People, and Community

This year’s conference will take place in conjunction with the 7th Quadrennial Gathering of the International Rural Churches Association (IRCA).  This will be a wonderful opportunity to meet and converse with siblings in Christ from around the world who are engaged in rural ministry.


Together we will explore God’s intent that God’s creation flourish—land (wild and domestic ecosystems), people, community—in the midst of global climate change and in the wake of global pandemic and all the other myriad of challenges the creation and rural people and communities face.  What does it mean to flourish, what does that look like, in the context of today’s realities?  How can we act in concert with God’s desire in this regard?

Leaders and Speakers

Keynote Speaker: Rev. Dr. Gil Waldkoenig has been professor of Church in Society and Director of the Town and Country Church Institute (TCCI) at United Lutheran Seminary and its predecessor school in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, since 1995. His book Symbiotic Community featured the work of Wartburg Seminary graduate Rev. Elwin W. Mueller who was Secretary of Town and Country Ministry for the National Lutheran Council in the mid-20th Century. Gil co-authored a book on multiple-church ministries and wrote many articles on topics ranging from rural and Appalachian ministries to ecological theology. Gil and spouse Amy have two adult children and belong to St. James Lutheran Church in Gettysburg. In 2017-2019, Gil served as Director for Evangelical Mission in the West Virginia-Western Maryland Synod to complement his teaching in rural and Appalachian ministries.

Soundscapes of Grace in Creation and Ministry

The gospel we speak and enact in ministry echoes in God’s good creation. By means of grace given by Christ, we join God’s creative song, harmonizing with ecological communities of God’s making. But noise mars perception, inhibits listening, and confuses us. Noise is a huge problem for Lutherans and other Christians who believe that “faith comes from what is heard” (Romans 10:17).

Naturalists have recently been listening intently and recording soundscapes, racing before species depletion and habitat loss silence many voices. Soundscapes can teach us about sorting sound life from noise. Traditions of music and story also belong to soundscapes. Traditional music and storytelling foster listening and harmony in place. Some ecologists now recognize traditional music and story to be cultural environmentalism.

Our presenter aims to encourage those who preach, teach and sing the good news of Jesus Christ that the means of grace resonate in soundscapes of God’s creation. Despite noise and harm to God’s creation, God’s grace resounds with God’s good intent in all creation. There are biblical auditions of God’s persistent grace in place, and Lutheran theology of Christ’s presence in creation invites joyful listening. Our presenter will share his roots in Appalachian music and soundscapes, hoping to inspire you to sing and tell the gospel, and to listen for its resonance, in the places God has called you.

The presenter on SUNDAY NIGHT will describe soundscapes of grace and how ministry is embedded in creation. The presentation on MONDAY MORNING will describe resonance of gospel and soundscape in Appalachia as an example. In BREAKOUT SESSIONS, Gil will share Appalachian music to further illustrate what he introduced in the keynote talks, and to welcome conversation about listening, singing and telling the gospel in your own context.

Keynote Speaker: Dr Heather Major,

Lecturer in Hebrew Language at Highland Theological College, University of Highlands and Islands, Scotland, and Vice-chair of the International Rural Churches Association. 

More information on Dr. Major’s presentation will be forthcoming.


More information coming soon!

Workshop Options

More information coming soon!

Registration Details

Registration for the one-day event is $25.00. Online registrations require payment by credit card. If you would prefer to pay by check, mail your check with “Rural Ministry Conference” in the memo line to: Wartburg Theological Seminary, Attn: Ann Fritschel, 333 Wartburg Pl, Dubuque, IA 52003. Please include a note with your contact information including an email address and phone number so we can contact you with details for accessing the conference.

A few days prior to the event, you will receive information via email to access the event.

Questions? Contact Ann Fritschel at afritschel@wartburgseminary.edu or 563-589-0308.

More information coming soon!

Consider Becoming a Host Family for International Guests

We are expecting up to 100 participants from around the world during the weekend of April 22-24. Part of the experience is to visit rural areas in the host country to see and discuss similarities in rural life and ministry. This requires host families to share hospitality and offer educational sightseeing events to local farms and industries. Congregations may wish to see if they could provide more than one host family so there could be shared activities. Even if you do not attend the conference please feel free to host a family. If you know of others who may be interested in hosting a family, please send them this information.

Host family responsibilities:

  • Picking up their guest(s) from Dubuque IA by 11 am on Saturday April 23
  • Returning them to Dubuque by 3 pm on Sunday April 24
  • Provide five meals: Saturday and Sunday lunch, Saturday dinner and Sunday breakfast.
  • Provide opportunities for sightseeing to local farms, agritourism spots and local attractions as well a meeting and visiting with farmers, church members and local pastors.
  • Provide housing for one night.
  • Take guest(s) to weekend worship.

Questions about serving as a host family? Contact Ann Fritschel at afritschel@wartburgseminary.edu.