Who is my neighbor?

by Pam Tinsley

Several weeks ago the Rev. Scott Gunn of Forward Movement reflected about the connection between our baptismal promises and the fires burning in the Amazon. In his blog post “Local Actions with Global Consequences,” he reminds us how the choices we make in our daily lives can impact people living halfway around the world. His thoughtful and thought-provoking blog points out that convenience and bargain prices come at a cost, whether it is the abysmal and dangerous working conditions the workers who make inexpensive goods are subjected to or the resulting environmental degradation that can have hidden and long-lasting effects.  We may be unaware of this, or we may choose to ignore it, but, as consumers we bear responsibility. As followers of Christ, we commit ourselves to much more than feeling responsible. We commit ourselves to making things right.

Gunn writes, “Loving my neighbors doesn’t just mean being kind to the people who live in my neighborhood. We say in our baptismal promises that we will respect the dignity of every human being, and surely that includes human beings I will never meet.”

Episcopalians on Baptismal Mission and Living God’s Mission strive to offer resources for living out our baptismal promises in daily life. The commitments we make at baptism call us to join God’s mission to make the world more loving and more just – with God’s help. Our baptismal covenant calls us to seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbors as ourselves. Our neighbors include all those who share our common humanity.

 

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5 ways to shift the system

by Demi Prentiss

Wayne Schwab’s recent post reminds us that the system that we’re working inside of is perfectly designed to give us what we’re getting. So if we want to see a different result, we need to redesign the system. The bad news is that wholesale redesign is difficult, if not impossible. The good news is that the simplest way to change a system is to change our own actions within the system.

Like Wayne and my other EBM colleagues, I long for a church system that focuses less on itself and more on its mission. I believe that the compelling mission of the Church—the Body of Christ—is to empower and embolden each believer with the result that they

act as an agent of the Living God,

working in partnership with The Ground of All Being

in each aspect of daily living

to make our world more loving and more just.

When we say we want the church to do that, then the system-shifting question is How will I, inside my faith community, do that?

How will I communicate, by word and example, how I understand myself to be sent, on mission in each part of my daily life?

What aspect of my faith community’s life can I re-focus toward ministry in daily life?

How will I discover, cultivate, and join with partners in discerning the shifts in congregational life that might re-shape the understanding of faith-filled living?

As a certified coach, I know better than to offer a one-size-fits-all prescription for any person who wants to grow and change in order to live more fruitfully.  That said, here’s a “starter packet” of five possible ways you might choose to engage those system-changing questions:

  1. Have a “one-on-one” conversation with a person you have an inkling might feel a similar stirring toward change.
  2. Create a “five by five”–a group of five people willing to gather for five meetings to focus on a particular issue.
  3. Engage with a book that might offer food for thought about systemic change, like Radical Sending, or Where the Members are the Missionaries, or Every Job a Parable.
  4. Examine one area of your own life—home, work, leisure, community, wider world, congregation, spiritual life—where you see God acting, and commit to how you will join God in working to make the situation more loving and more just.
  5. Cultivate a practice of daily “examen,” asking three questions:
    • “Where did I cooperate with God today?”
    • “Where did I not cooperate with God today?”
    • “What do I want to do tomorrow to be more ready to cooperate with God?”

Designing the right system

[Friends: I wrote this overview for a meeting of the steering team for Episcopalians on Baptismal Mission (EBM). They liked it and each member will post a blog commenting on various parts of it in the next few weeks. You may want to keep this on hand for future reference.  – Wayne Schwab]

Systems theory in brief (with apologies to its founder, W. E. Deming, Out of the Crisis, MIT Press, 2000):

  • Every organization is a system of many parts.
  • The system is designed to produce the results it is getting.
  • If you want different results, you have to redesign the system. Decide what results you want from the system.
  • Redesign the system to produce the results you want.

Systems theory and bringing the concepts of Ministry in Daily Life to a congregation: 

  1. Your congregation is a system. Every system is designed to produce the results it is getting.
  2. What kind of members is your congregation producing?How many (%) believe they are sent on mission in each part of their daily lives – home and friends, work (paid or volunteer), community, wider world (from social norms to systems), leisure or play-time, seeking spiritual health, and congregation and its outreach?
  3. Your congregation is designed to produce the kinds of members it is producing. Off hand, only about 10-15% of our members believe they are sent on mission in each part of their daily lives.
  4. Redesign the system if you want to produce members who believe they are on mission in each part of daily life. We need to redesign our congregation.
  5. We need to redesign our congregation’s systems to produce the members we want to produce. We want to produce members who believe they are sent on mission in each part of their daily lives.
  6. What needs to be redesigned in our congregation to produce the kind of members we want? Apparently, “the mission of the church to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ” is not working to produce members who believe they are sent on mission in each part of their daily lives. We need to rethink the congregation’s purpose, its mission.
  7. We need to involve all of our leaders in determining what needs to be changed. We need to involve all of the congregation’s leaders in rethinking the congregation’s mission, its purpose.
  8. We need to rely on all of the leaders to redesign the group or activity they lead around the congregation’s new purpose or mission.
  9. We need to keep in touch with the leaders to see how they are implementing the congregation’s new purpose or mission.
  10. Do this for 5-10 years and you will see a difference in the kind of members your congregation is producing.

So friends, what mission or purpose will produce the kind of members who want to believe they are sent on mission in every part of daily life?

Our mission has to begin with God’s mission:

  • God is on mission to make every part of daily life more loving and more just.
  • Jesus Christ is on God’s mission to make every part of daily life more loving and more just.
  • The church of Jesus Christ is on mission to make every part of daily life more loving and more just.
  • Our congregation is called to be part of God’s mission to make every part of daily life more loving and more just through Jesus Christ.

What EBM stands for, in a nutshell

by Peyton Craighill

I belong to a “subversive” organization known as “EBM – standing for Episcopalians on Baptismal Mission (the organization that sponsors this blog). Its goal is to convince all Christians that they should take their baptismal vows seriously by living them out in all their daily-life activities, Monday through Sunday.

And (this is the “subversive” part), their congregations are supposed to help them do this!

This means converting our congregations from “shelters” (protecting their members from the stormy blasts of life), into “base camps” – inspiring, directing, equipping, and supporting their members for their missions in their daily lives, wherever Christ leads them on their journeys.

The typical “shelter” congregation places their primary emphasis on “Come” to church on Sunday mornings. The “base camp” congregation primarily emphasizes “Go” out in your daily lives to serve Christ’s mission, Monday-through-Sunday.