God’s call, our response: What Church does God’s mission now require?
For four days in February, 70 laity and clergy from a significant portion of the Anglican Communion* gathered in Texas for an International Symposium on Ministry Development and considered this question: What church does God’s mission now require?
Each day we used a portion of the story of the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:1-42) for our Bible study, and then met in reflection groups for a conversation focused on mission. One of the challenges we all encounter after attending such gatherings is the desire and need to share the wisdom we gleaned from the experience. At this conference the wisdom was sometimes asked as a question, at other times there were clear reflective statements on ministry today. Shared below are a few of the wise statements and questions that were put forth during the symposium**.
Reflections on John 4:1-42
•Jesus is vulnerable – he asks for water; he doesn’t have everything he needs, but together we have what we need.
•Definition of ministry development: We are to call the church to authentic engagement as baptized people – build capacity to know ourselves and know others; all are beloved children of God.
•Our work together is less about supporting the institution and more about creating encounters. The truth of who I am encountering, the truth of who you are – the institution supports encounter creation.
•The woman at the well was so excited she left her water jar; fishermen left their boats. What do I need to leave behind in order to evangelize?
Remarks made in response to the question, “The Mission of God, Missio Dei: What is God already doing around us and among us?”
•What is the ministry model that can work for this congregation at this point in time?
•Missional ministry happens two by two – travel in twos.
•Ongoing discernment opportunities are for life. Keeping the missional edge in front of us is important.
•What do we have to learn from the diversity we experience? We have a vast field of learning.
In the response to the identification of mission as “Proclaiming Jesus Christ as God’s gift to and/ or for the world,” the following were among the reflections offered.
•Ministry development is connecting with and empowering the spark in someone else who is called to be an active participatory member of the body of Christ.
•We are called to be authentic and prophetic disciples of Jesus. Do not be afraid.
•We are blessed by God to explode into society with God’s love. We make the Eucharist and the Eucharist makes us.
•Let my baptism do something with me. Baptism is a gift; it’s up to me to do something with it.
Comments engendered during the discussion of “Offering ourselves in liberating service to the reign of God”
•The church is a reformed and reforming church.
•Christians in the New Testament are actively seeking engagement – Jesus did in Samaria. He expects disciples to do the same.
•When we breathe in and out we say the word YHWH [Hebrew: God]. All the world is keeping in harmony with that.
•What keeps the ministry of the church breathing? Where does the energy come from?
In conclusion, through the experience of others we received affirmation for the mission and ministry we are engaging in the Diocese of Southern Ohio. We are not ‘in this’ alone; discipleship, flexibility, partnerships, and courage are the necessary elements for responding to the Missio Dei.
*Those in attendance were bishops, priest, deacons, and laity from the Church of England; the Anglican Church of Canada; the Anglican Church of Australia; the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia; The Episcopal Church; The Scottish Episcopal Church
**If you would like to receive a full copy of notes from the symposium, please contact Canon Reed.
Anne Reed serves as Canon for Mission for the Diocese of Southern Ohio. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.