Vision and mission statements

by Edward L. Lee, Jr.

In my 58 years of ordained ministry, 28 of them as bishop, I have crafted and read many vision and mission statements by parishes, church organizations, and dioceses. They all try to articulate the calling, purpose, and goals of their particular ecclesiastical and ministry enterprise. Collectively they are often a mixed bag of good intentions and wishful thinking, of real and unrealistic plans, of imaginative risk-taking or safe tasks for maintenance and survival. Some have passed my test of being Gospel-based and missional in scope, while many have soft-landed into a bland and predictable Sunday business-as-usual comfort zone.

Recently I came upon a parish’s vision/mission statement that caught my missional attention and ministry imagination. I pass it on for your consideration. What do you think? How does it strike you, or not? Full disclosure: it does pass my test of being Gospel-based and missional in scope. Read on:

OUR MISSION

Welcome all seekers;

Worship God in liturgy, music and prayer;

Equip all baptized persons for ministry; and

Engage as agents of Christ’s love in the world.

 

OUR CORE VALUES

Learning leads to God;

In giving and receiving care we encounter Christ;

Life in the Holy Spirit is beautiful.

 

OUR ASPIRATIONAL  VALUES

Community engagement and social justice;

Unconditional welcome and inclusion;

A community that calls forth the gifts of its entire people;

Becoming a racism-free and diverse community

that reflects the city where we worship.

Church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, Philadelphia, PA

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It’s all in how we receive

by Fletcher Lowe

Let me confess: I am addicted to the TV show Dancing with the Stars!  My wife and I met dancing and have been dancing together ever since, so watching Dancing with the Stars is a natural.  How does that relate to ministry?  Very simply.  The people who participate on that show minister to my wife and me in a significant way, providing us with a deep sense of joy and gratitude and well-being, with an opportunity to thank God for such talent and for our ability to enjoy it.  I have no idea about the religious backgrounds of any of those on the show.  That’s not the point.  What I do know is that they provide a real ministry to me.  Which is to say that ministry is not an exclusive Christian thing.  Nor does it depend on whether the individual has a sense of ministry.  It’s all in how we receive.

So I feel ministered to by all sorts and conditions of people.  Ministry is not just what I and other Baptized Christians try to offer in our neck of the woods, but it is also how we experience the ministry of others whether they realize it or not.

So, who are those who minister to you?  Certainly, your fellow Christians on the job or in your community or home.  And what about those other folks out there in your world?  Can we not celebrate their ministry also, even if they have no idea that they are ministering to us?  Just a thought for further discussion.  In the meanwhile, I will celebrate being ministered to by the folks on Dancing with the Stars!

P.S.  Would it not be a good Christian thing to do to let those folks know of their ministry to us?  I’m adding that to my to do list: thank the folks at Dancing with the Stars for their ministry to me and my wife.

Practicing God-Talk

by Wayne Schwab

Here’s an idea to help members to think about current issues in the framework of faith.  Share with them articles of any kind that raise current issues in any of the seven daily mission fields.  Connect each article with a biblical theme and its source.  Make copies available and convene a discussion on a Sunday morning before or after worship – or any sensible time.  The guiding principle is that members seldom speak up on various current issues because they have had little practice talking about them in a faith framework – hence “Practicing God-talk” as the name for the activity.

Practicing God-talk for Sunday adult classes

Preparation:

  • select a printed piece on a private or public issue
  • connect it with one of the seven daily mission fields
  • select a related biblical theme
  • provide copies of it for advance reading

For example:
A Sunday leaflet or a newsletter announces:

On Sunday (date), we will work with two aspects of our mission in spiritual health.  We will work with two articles:

Both articles come from Sojourners magazine for January 2017.  One biblical theme relates to both: “. . . let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (Amos 5:24).

Look online for the quotes from Wallis and Packnett to read and print out. Also, copies will be available in the church on the two previous Sundays.

At the session:

Open with the related biblical theme: “. . . let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (Amos 5:24). Read the two quotes and suggest these are issues in spiritual health, and open for discussion.

Surprised by Love at the Workbench

by Wayne Schwab

The Member Mission Network offers Daily Adventures in Love and Justice, helping people to be more loving and just every day.  This adventure in love will surprise you.  It will sound like an issue in daily work.  Can you spot where love comes up?

Let’s define love – in a way that is both fresh and biblical.

Love is valuing other people as they really are
– caring for them
– forgiving them
– helping them to develop their skills and talents.
Love is valuing others as they really are.

Here’s a time that love will surprise you.  It surprised me.  It’s about a whistle blower.

Jack assembles automatic door closers for subway cars.  He threw down the parts one day.  “They’re poorly made – they won’t last long.  They allow for mistakes of four hundredths of an inch.  It ought’a be two hundredths of an inch.  I will not make any more!”

Did the place ever blow up!  Even top managers showed up.  Guess what?  They found Jack was right.  They changed the specs and Jack became an advisor of sorts.

When Jack told me about it, I had to ask, “You risked your job!  Why?”

His answer: “I could see a single mother on her way to work.  The door wouldn’t open.  She’d miss a day’s work – with kids to feed at home.  All because I had put together a door opener I knew wouldn’t last.”

Did you get it?  Love showed up in the midst of the work place!

Jack loved a person he did not even know about.  He risked his job for her.  He valued that single mother as she was – without even knowing her.  That’s real love.  He valued that mother just as she was.

Love will surprise you.  You never know where you’ll find love.

Where have you been surprised by love?

On mission in your home – 1930s and 2016

by Wayne Schwab

In the 1930s in Cleveland Park in Washington, DC, it was safe to leave the front door unlocked at night.

One night the high school brothers were out late.  Dad heard the front door open and the refrigerator door followed.  He assumed the boys were getting a snack before bedtime.

Then he heard the front door open and close again.  Who was it?

He called out the window, “Who are you?”

“It’s Randy.  I just needed a sandwich before going to bed.”  Things were tight at home for Randy.  The boys’ parents had told all their friends, “You are welcome at any time.”

Randy was taking them up on their offer.

Could your home have such a mission?

Doors have to be locked today – especially, at night.

What might happen if you said to friends of your teens, “You are always welcome.  Just knock.”

It’s a caring home mission.

Who owns ministry?

by Fletcher Lowe

Recently I was in a meeting where a young man was sharing his Christian journey.  He outlined his childhood closely connected to a Church community, then college where he felt called to the “ministry,” which he pursued through graduate school in music, became a Minister of Music, moved on to Seminary to further pursue that call to “the ministry,” had a not-too-challenging time as an assistant minister before finding his ministry fit as a chaplain in a home for disabled adults.

The more I heard his story, the more I felt uncomfortable with the way he was using the word “ministry.”  It was as if the only real ministry was within the church community.

I had a similar conversation at a dinner party a week ago when I was introduced to another guest: “She is a Presbyterian minister,” my friend said.  I looked back at him and said, “Well you, too, are a Presbyterian minister – it’s just that she has been ordained, but we are all ministers by virtue of our Baptism.”  They both looked as if I was speaking a foreign language.

Part of the current missional revolution is challenging the Church to reclaim the sense of ministry, of calling, of vocation for all the Baptized, not just those who are ordained.  As Byron Rushing, the vice chair of The Episcopal Church’s House of Deputies remarked, reflecting on his calling in the Massachusetts Legislature, “Jesus is in the Legislature where I am called to serve. If he were not there, I should not be there either.”

Each of us is empowered by our baptism for ministry in our daily lives of home, work, and community.  We need to claim that calling – and not let the ordained alone “own it.”

How do you rate?

by Peyton Craighill

Charles Schulz, the creator of the “Peanuts” comic strip, offered this reflection as an illustration of his philosophy of life. Though he probably wouldn’t have used this term, he is calling us all to practice our God-given mission in our daily lives:

You don’t have actually to answer the questions. Just ponder on them.  Just read this message straight through, and you’ll get the point.

  • Name the five wealthiest people in the world.
  • Name the last five Heisman trophy winners.
  • Name the last five winners of the Miss America pageant.
  • Name ten people who have won the Nobel or Pulitzer Prize.
  • Name the last six Academy Award winners for best actor and actress.
  • Name the last decade’s worth of Super Bowl winners.

How did you do?  The point is, none of us remember the headliners of yesterday. These are no second-rate achievers – they are the best in their fields. But the applause dies… Awards tarnish …  Achievements are forgotten. Accolades and certificates are buried with their owners.

 

Here’s another quiz. See how you do on this one:

  • List a few teachers who aided your journey through school.
  • Name three friends who have helped you through a difficult time.
  • Name five people who have taught you something worthwhile.
  • Think of a few people who have made you feel appreciated and special.
  • Think of five people you enjoy spending time with.

Easier?

 

The lesson: The people who make a difference in your life are not the ones with the most credentials, the most money … or the most awards. They simply are the ones who care the most.

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.

What’s the church here for, anyway?

by Wayne Schwab

I was the interim pastor in a small church in Essex in upstate New York on Lake Champlain.  For some reason, Essex hosted meetings of the International Bagpipe Organization.

A piper walked through the church hall.  He asked, “What’s the church here for anyway?”

I answered, “God is most interested in how we live Monday to Saturday.  Sunday is to help us to do it better.”

He liked the answer.  I’d been thinking this way for some time.  At last I had said it.

That’s a key to living God’s mission every day – especially to what a church should be doing.

We say a church needs to be friendly and open to anyone who walks through its doors.

— I now say a church really needs to help everyone walking through its doors to live better on Monday because they were there on Sunday.

We say a church should offer community – very important in a world that can be very lonely.

—  I now say a church really needs to help you to build community in your worlds outside the church.

We say a church needs vitality – to be alive within its walls and alive in its town or city.

— I now say a church really needs to be known for how its members are making the world around them more loving and more just wherever they are 24/7/365.