Around the Cathedral these days, there is a lot of talk about the future and what the mission of the parish might be. And as it happens, I was doing some research towards some planning we are going to do this winter. In particular, I wanted to know how to define mission so that I could build on that for what we were going to do. Yet in my research I uncovered something I was not prepared for. The word “mission” as it was first used in English in the early 16th Century, according to a online dictionary, is now obsolete. The dictionary indicated that “the act of sending” had ceased. I take that to mean that we do not use the word in that manner anymore. I could not help but think of the work of the Church and what it is that we are called by God to do. And then it struck me. We do not do “mission” the way that we used to.
We could debate the merits and failures of the Church and how it has carried out its mission in Canada and in other places in the world. It would take some time to do that. I believe that such a discussion while tremendously useful on some levels would also distract us from what we need to do in the here and now. Such a belief comes from the old adage “the Church that lives unto itself, dies unto itself.” Thus I am pushing myself to look at the ministry of my own parish, of our Diocese and of the wider Church as something more than the establishment and maintenance of a physical presence in a particular place at any given time. We as parishes and as a diocese, need move from being mission churches to being churches in mission. After all, what is mission but a group of people who are working to see the goals and objectives of God established and accomplished in our lives and that of our community? We are sent and are trusted with the work that would bring people into the kingdom. Our mission is to embody Christ for others to see and to get to know.
When I served in the far North, I would walk (not drive) in the community I served. People in the community came to know me not just by my face or how I talked; people knew me without those things simply by how I walked. Even the children would point at me as I passed by on my way somewhere and would say loudly, “There goes Jesu Krist!” It did matter who it was that saw me, Anglicans, Roman Catholics? No, it didn’t. Even non-believers after a time of getting to know me would say that there was something different going on after I would speak with them. There was calm and a peace that they didn’t know themselves that would be present when we would talk. There would be joy and happiness that was deeper and more real.
So let us make being incarnational our mission. Let us embody Christ for others so that we might both present him and represent him in our different communities. Let us be about the work that God has set before us and be willing to pray with everything we are and give what we have that the kingdom would be extended so that we would go from being mission churches to being communities of mission.