Making connections in mission
In previous Mission Corner articles, specific examples of mission have been shared as well as a few perspec- tives on the philosophy of mission. At our diocesan convention, we shared amazing stories through the Art of Hosting about local ministries, both current and aspirational. As we continue the convention conversa- tion, it may be helpful to consider the ways in which we encounter our neighbors, and what separates mission from outreach. One thing is for sure, BOTH mission and outreach are important in the life of the church, in the lives of Episcopalians and in the lives of our neighbors.
The Episcopal Church website says the following regarding the Five Marks of Mission: “The Mission of the Church is the Mission of Christ: to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom; to teach, baptize and nurture new believ- ers; to respond to human need by loving service; to seek to transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and to pur- sue peace and reconciliation; [and] to strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth.” Parishes and dioceses throughout the Anglican Communion have adopted this ‘checklist’ for mis- sion activities developed by the Anglican Consultative Council between 1984 and 1990. What is important to understand about this list is that each mark is valuable. We are called as Christians to apply all five marks of mis- sion to our endeavors – no one mark of mission stands in isolation. They work together to help us live into the mission of Christ.
At the Mission ministries convention display table, folks were invited to identify which of the Marks of Mission that they felt were fulfilled by the ministries they engaged. Not surprisingly, most of the individuals who completed the survey felt the ministries in which they participated responded to human need by loving service. The rest of the checklist received equally about half of the number of votes as loving service. It is clear that many of us are engaged in loving service – an important mark of mission, and one that, when our ministries engage in that mark alone, are meaningful outreach efforts.
How can we respond to God’s invitation to go beyond service? A short answer is to live into our Baptismal Covenant, and “respect the dignity of every human being.” The Marks of Mission give us some clues as to how we might do that. We can ask those we serve if we can pray with them, maybe even share our faith story with some; we can join with those who are adversely affected by public policy to work to change those policies; we can stand in the midst of conflict and invite peace and reconciliation; we can consciously manage our lives and ministries in ways that minimize our carbon footprint and toxic waste; we can join with others to create new green spaces. These are just a few ideas, many of which are found among your ministries. The key is that the Marks of Mission work for the missional enterprise when they are taken in total, not just one by one.
There are many wonderful partnerships and collaborations occurring in the places in which we live and worship. Perhaps as we continue to celebrate those, we can encourage each other to apply all of the Marks of Mission in our reflection on how we engage our neighbors. As the saying goes, ‘it takes a village to raise a child’, it takes all of us to be intentional, as mission- aries for Christ, and in so doing the world will be renewed.
Anne Reed serves as Canon for Mission in the Diocese of Southern Ohio. Contact her at email@example.com.