Greetings everyone! Now that the day of Pentecost has come and gone and I begin to settle into the position of Coordinator for Missional Church Strategy, I thought I would try to articulate some of what I am learning about the "Missional movement" and what I see as I contemplate and dream of the future of this diocese with regard to being missional.
I love to work jigsaw puzzles, and in some ways I see this work as a huge puzzle – helping to piece together a vision of what God is up to here in this diocese. Unlike the puzzles I love though, this puzzle is borderless. I have to think differently about piecing this together – I have to shift my mind’s eye. Although borderless, there are some distinct features that we can focus on as we work together to become more missional.
Before Bishop Beckwith left on sabbatical, I spoke with him not about a complete strategy and action plan, but about the desire to encourage and support a missional spirit in the diocese, to lift up a diocese filled with people seeking to live missional lives, and to resource and journey with over 100 congregations as we seek to live missional lives centered in the call to join God in our communities. But how do we foster missional living?
The Missional model presented by the Mission Strategy Committee suggests that as a first step we take discipleship seriously. We are a people called, formed and sent by a God who delights in both us and the neighborhood where God’s mission is to be found. We belong to this God – a God who is at work all around us.
For us as individuals and as a community of faith, it is crucial that we are all able to share our personal and collective experiences of this God with one another and others in the larger community. How have I seen God at work in my life? As my Dad used to say, “Every person has one good sermon.” Along with our individual stories, wouldn’t it be wonderful if all people in our churches could articulate who we are as a community of faith in the midst of and because of our neighborhoods? When we share our stories and listen to others’ stories, we are transformed. We begin to appreciate how God is working in their lives as well. When we look and listen for God, and partner with others in our neighborhood, we discover those "seeds of hope" that God has already planted.
Our stories are intrinsically tied to biblical stories about this God who throughout history sends us out to do holy work. Our spiritual identity is formed by and through these stories. So, an important piece of the puzzle is offering opportunities for biblical engagement within or among our congregations that would capture and feed our imaginations and inform our identities as Christian disciples. This is vital as we seek to discover what God is up to all around us.
On the way to discerning and piecing together a missional vision, there will be many more conversations.
This summer, I will be meeting with a small group who have expressed interest in partnering with churches interested in learning more about becoming missional. I will be following up with congregations who would like to hear more about the missional church. I will also be working with others who are seeking to revitalize lay ministry and discipleship in the diocese. In the fall, we hope to sponsor a workshop by The Missional Network, Moving Back into the Neighborhood, which will give simple exercises and offer practical skills for engaging our neighbors.
The Spirit continues on beyond Pentecost to give us life and open our eyes to see God at work in our lives and in the lives of our friends, coworkers, and neighbors. God is up to something in the world that is bigger than the church as we know it – let’s celebrate this and be willing to "risk something big for something good!"
If you are interested in any of the above, I invite you to call or email me for more details. I am normally at Episcopal House all day on Wednesday and Thursday and some Tuesdays. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 973-430-9912.