Pastor’s Charge for 2019 and the Parish of Copper Cliff and Lively
For a number of years now congregations have been encouraged to formulate and live according to a Mission Statement as a declaration of the direction they believe God is leading. Each congregation in this Parish family has formulated a Mission Statement and I support and encourage this idea because, I have found, it gives congregation a better focus. While we may wish to be ‘all things for all people’ the reality is that it makes much more sense to be a bit more selective because we are all dealing with a limited number of resources. I also will take this opportunity to remind people that Jesus had a “Mission Statement” which is recorded in Matthew’s Gospel. “All authority has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:18-20) It is helpful, I think, to consider this mission statement as our overarching mission and then get specific in our own particular situation as to how it is best to try to accomplish this mission. During the next few minutes I wish to make some suggestions as to how to continue to make this large mission of Jesus part of our own lives as members of this congregation.
Lately my mind has been captured by a phrase I first heard over 30 years ago - a Christian Community in Action. My comments come under the umbrella of urging all Christians to become part of such a Community and to “continue to grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour” (2 Peter 3:18)
A Community is described as “a group of people living together as a smaller social unit inside a larger one, and having interests, work etc in common” (Webster) The congregations to which we belong are certainly communities. They have been born and continue within the context of a larger community and were begun by people having a common interest in promoting the Anglican Church’s view of life. Due to common experiences some beliefs and values are shared by members of the congregation. But we are more than simply people who happen to show up to the same place at the same time each week. A community spends time living and working together and so the bonds of friendship and fellowship are strengthened. This is certainly true of Christian congregations but, of course, the primary focus is on the word ‘Christian’ when it comes to this conversation.
A Christian is someone who is a disciple of Jesus Christ. The person who is a Christian is a person who follows, as much as is humanly possible, the model seen in the life and work of Jesus. We are to be people of peace and humility, of love and forgiveness, of service and sacrifice. A Christian community is meant to model these things in their daily behaviour and to grow into a reflection of the person of Jesus Christ.
A Christian Community in Action , then, is a group of people committed to following Jesus who make a plan to ‘go and make disciples of all nations’ and to live out the model and example of Jesus Christ as they do so. We follow Jesus in the way in which we live and move and have our being and as we do so we become more and more like the person we are following. The specifics of our journey will always be changing because the world around us is always changing and we are always changing. It is therefore important to keep at the centre of our minds the desire to follow Jesus and not the latest trends. Dr. Suess wrote a lovely children’s book with the title “O the Places We’ll Go” and that thought describes the adventure that is the life of a follower of Jesus. So, the charge I have to share is simply to follow Jesus into the next 12 months and, as a community, do the best you can to co-operate in his mission to the world. This will require of us all three primary areas of focus: our hearts, our heads, and our hands.
Our hearts. God has captured our hearts through Jesus the Messiah. The two disciples walking back to Emmaus described the feeling they had while Jesus was speaking to them by saying ‘were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening scripture to us” (Luke 24:32) and each of us in our own way has experienced something of that. Nurturing that connection is what we are doing when we pray and meditate on the reality of our God in our lives. Committing ourselves to a discipline of prayer is a very important component to our lives as members of a Christian Community in Action. That discipline includes gathering as a community for regular Church services as well as the daily individual moments of prayer. Nurturing our heart connection with our Lord and Saviour takes time and discipline but is essential for the effectiveness of a Christian Community in Action.
Our heads. We don’t often think of the fact that we study those we love because the word conjures up some images that are not helpful but we do indeed study those we love. It is an expression of our love for them when we memorize their date of birth, their favourite colour, their likes in art and music. It is an expression of our love for them when we notice what is important to them and try to help them accomplish things about which they care deeply. The same is the case when it comes to our relationship with Jesus Christ. We study what is important to Jesus by reading and discussing the Bible in a systematic way. Group work has been found to be most helpful in this part of the discipline because with many perspectives an additional level of clarity to scripture is often acheived but it is also important to govern these group discussion through the work of a trusted teacher. Whether through electronic media, written literature, or lessons delivered in person the action of using our heads to follow Jesus is essential for the effectiveness of a Christian Community in Action.
Our hands. The writer of the letter of James put it this way, “For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is also dead.” (James 2:26) There are actions to perform on behalf of Jesus within every community in which a Christian Community exists. The environment around the congregations should be studied to determine which needs can be supported by the community in question and then a plan to address that need made by the Christian Community. Each setting will be different but the intention needs to be similar. So again, the charge I have to share is simply to follow Jesus for the next 12 months and be a Christian Community in Action.
Our Diocesan Synod has adjusted the agenda for Vestry meetings to include something called “Mission Objectives” which is our chance as a gathering of this Christian Community to discuss plans that we trust will help us fulfill the Mission described in the statements below.
Respectfully submitted by,
the Ven. Glen Miller.
St. John’s Mission Statement
It is our Mission to welcome others through love and friendship. We are part of the body of Christ in this community seeking to fulfil peoples’ needs so that they may live in the Joy of Christ. We will maintain our place of worship, and we will participate in local, diocesan and worldwide outreach.
Christ Church’s Mission Statement
We are servants of God working to be a worshipping, nurturing, and caring family, reaching out to the community.