Friday, December 22, 2006

Church Schism - Not Mission Shaped

cartoon from www.weblogcartoons.com

Cartoon by Dave Walker. Find more cartoons you can freely re-use on your blog at We Blog Cartoons.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Leaving your nets

I have been following the Pope’s visit to Turkey through the eyes of Robert Moynihan from the “Inside the Vatican” magazine. In Robert’s final reflections about the importance of this visit he moves away from the two men of the moment and points us back to St Peter and St Andrew.

Here’s what he has to say:

“... And so, the story of Benedict’s trip to Turkey remains open-ended. The words and actions of these days will bear their fruits in due season.

So what is the key issue now?

It is to see how the seeds planted here grow, how they are watered and tended as they mature.

Pope Benedict, in his homily at the Mass on November 30 said the effort to bring the separated Christian Churches together, East and West, Orthodox and Catholic, was the chief goal of his visit, imitating the work of the apostles Peter and Andrew, brothers called by Christ to leave their work as fishermen to become "fishers of men."

That call reveals much about the mind of Christ. He did not call them to create structures. He did not call them to build churches. He did not call them to delineate parishes or dioceses or patriarchates. He called them to catch men.

Their work was to propose to men and women a "good news" which would be so attractive that those men and women would become different, filled with a new spirit, and being so transformed, would create the necessary preconditions for a more just, peaceful, and loving world.

And how did Peter and Andrew act?

They acted with courage. They risked everything. They left their ordinary work and took on a work which they did not anticipate, a work which was given to them by Christ. And they carried out that work even unto death - unto deaths on crosses, one crucified head down, the other crucified on a cross shaped like an "x."…”


Tomorrow in the parish we start our Advent homily series on God’s first four questions to man, beginning with “where are you?”

I will pick up on the ‘fisherman’ theme in my homily, asking if we are hiding from the God we once walked with for fear of being sent out to fish for men and women, outside of the comfort zone of our own little bit of paradise.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Parallel ways of being Church

Stuarticus asks in response to my last post:

…It's interesting to consider the different rates of change in the wider community and the church.
Also, change is not necessarily synonimous with improvement..
So, should the church: 
* lead from the front
* keep pace with societal 
expectations or 
* act as a rearguard moderating 
influence?
Wednesday, November 29, 2006

In response I offer the following:

My recent reading would seem to suggest that we do not throw out the old, but that we find other ways of being Church in parallel ways to our existing faith communities, offering a choice without compromising theological or liturgical integrity.

Two separate congregations, sharing the same buildings, ministers and resources, with some cross-fertilisation of membership, opens up possibilities for reaching and making connections with a wider cross-section of new disciples without upsetting the worshipping style of existing congregations.

Monday, November 27, 2006

A lesson from my Grandmother

I’ve been reading a lot recently about new ways of being ‘church’ and feeling a little uneasy that I may have to give up some of my familiar props if we are to be effective in our mission. But I had a revelation today.

Today is my grandmother’s 98th birthday – this morning, Melbourne time, I received an SMS from my family to say that they were in the midst of the birthday celebrations and it would be a good time to call and say ‘happy birthday’. So on the side of a dirt road, on the other side of the globe, I called my grandmother from my mobile phone and wished her a happy birthday. At 98 she takes this in her stride just as she is happy to look at pictures on a computer rather than pass around photographs.

I think what I am saying here is that the telephone greeting was a similar conversation to one I would have had with her on a local land-line thirty years ago. The pictures we looked at on a computer recently were the same family groupings we would have looked at on photo paper thirty years ago. Doing the same things in new ways strengthens the relationship; it doesn’t weaken or cheapen it. It allows it to continue in ‘real-time’ despite the tyranny of distance.

There are new ways in which we can be Church, we just have to be prepared to accept them.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Time Management in Mission Mode

This has been a very demanding week for me, more so than usual. Some tension earlier in the week zapped my energy, produced a difficult to treat headache and left me exhausted, unable to do anything other than try to get some rest in the evenings.

During the week I only managed to attend one evening Parish meeting (Pastoral Team) and have not felt able to write until this morning. Fortunately, The Dean is coming to be our Guest Preacher this weekend and I don’t have to write a homily.

All of this lethargy and inertia was physical – it may have had a psychological causative element – but the result left me in a state where I had to make a real effort to get up and face each day. It was only my much-rehearsed morning prayer routine that enabled me to engage with the day. The question to myself then is this; having exhausted yourself on things of no real ‘eternal consequence’, what is left for those things that are?

One of the questions presented to the Pastoral Team on Wednesday night as it looked back over the year was this: ‘Have we tried to do too many events this year?’ This question arose partly because some events had not been as well attended as others, and as something to bear in mind as we were looking at next year’s diary.

Something that struck me as we looked at 2007 was the number of ‘conflicting’ dates with other community groups that we felt we had to walk around for fear of ‘getting them off-side’. Rotary, Lion’s Club, School events, Community Family Fun days, all taking some of the traditional place and presence in the community that the parish church did not so long ago.

Alongside this there is the rise in the 'number' of local community groups. This proliferation of service and sporting groups has seen a reduction in the time some parishioners have to give to their parish activities; some feel that to be involved in the wider community they must be members of these ‘Service’ clubs.

As I have said before, Christ’s instruction to us is clear, we are to ‘go’ and ‘make disciples’. Just being the Christian presence on various committees is not enough – we are called to change lives not committees.

As disciples we need to review our time management as part of our overall stewardship. We must not be so over-committed to the social life of the community that we have no time or energy left to build the Kingdom.

I will let Bishop Michael have the last word. This is a little from yesterday’s entry on his blog.

"...it is not easy being a disciple. It requires us to be prayerfully working away at allowing Christ to take over who we are and what we do, with the emphasis on “working away”. And that is where this idea of discipleship ties into our work of mission and renewal. Being baptised is not enough. Going to church on Sunday is not enough. What is required is for us to grow in our Christ-likeness. And what does that mean for Thomas? It means allowing ourselves to be taken over by the Kingdom within. We face up to our sinfulness, acknowledge our needs and work on changing the things we need to change. We pray, we expose ourselves to the Word of God in the Scriptures and we reach out in love to the poor and needy around us."

Saturday, November 11, 2006

A hungry and receptive Wilderness

In a few weeks we will begin the liturgical season of Advent . John the Baptist’s cry to “Prepare the way of The Lord” rings loud through those opening weeks as we prepare for the celebration of Christ’s Nativity.

Reports from Britain this week bring hope that the wilderness into which John cries, whilst still a wilderness, is a more receptive wilderness today. A multi-faith think tank called ‘Theos’ issued a report in London this week claiming that most people in Britain now saw religion as a force for good.

In a joint foreword to the report, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, and The Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor (head of Britain’s Roman Catholics) said that those who want religion removed from national life are themselves guilty of an intolerant position. They write that "Religiously inspired public engagement need not be sectarian and in fact can be radically inclusive”.

An article in ‘The Tablet’ says that “the report itself argues that religion will play an increasingly crucial role in society, because of growing interest in religion's part in promoting happiness and well-being”.

With Interest Rates up, the drought, talk of Victoria entering a recession, a retail slow-down over this traditionally busy next few months, limited employment and a general uncertainly about the future, John’s words speak to us today.

John’s 'prepare and repent' is a call to return to basics, to the key things that matter, to faith in a loving and forgiving God whose promise for the Earth is in the Rainbow and for us is in His Son.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Making Disciples

I have been engaged in a dialogue on a UK site about evangelism. I took issue with a blogger who stated that he “bulked at Christians who ignore the simple instruction to ‘go into all the world and preach the gospel’.”

I responded that the instruction is not “a simple instruction to go into all the world and preach the gospel” but to “Go therefore AND MAKE DICIPLES of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and the Holy Spirit” - Matt 28.19 - The task is clearly defined and not easy. The promise is of course “and lo I am WITH YOU always.

If the church is going to rediscover its effectiveness and stand up in the world it needs to be a church of ‘disciples’ not just ‘believers’.

I know many people who believe in God and accept the Christian story but who are not active disciples of Christ. I think that this is why the Catechumenate process for adults, leading to Baptism and Confirmation, is right for our times. Alpha, Credo and the others have their place but we can learn much from the Early Church and their preparation for discipleship.

We must remember the instruction to us is to Go!

We can no longer just wait for people to come to us.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Evangelistic Walking - God Help Us!

Dave Walker of the CartoonChurch.com has an article on Evangelistic Walking (if you have read my comments on this on my main site, skip to the next post). This has apparently been given the blessing of the Mission Department of the Diocese of Chichester, UK. I can now confirm that this has now arrived Down-Under. Having just arrived back from the UK a few weeks ago, I went with my companion for lunch at a neighbouring village. There was a mixed group (ages, backgrounds ,drinking habits) at the next table, talking over each other and generating much don’t-get-smart-with-me banter. After fighting over the division of the bill, refusing to leave any tip, they got up to leave. As they left an older member of the group approached me, she stroked my dog Glastonbury, who was on my lap, and still looking at the dog, invited me to the old blue stone church around the corner, passing me a coffee-stained handbill that had the other information she failed to communicate – they were having a mission. When I explained that I ministered in the parish next door she apologised, explained she was from Sydney (as if I hadn’t guessed), that she was just here for the mission and then, with out looking at my friend asked me “would he like one?” Well if that didn’t confirm his views on foot-path evangelism.

Yes, I think I would hide if this group came chasing me along the street. At least with the Hari Chrisners (sic) you here them coming!

I’m waiting for Dave’s cartoon about this. I will post a link here when he publishes one.

Time for the Church to Speak Out

Although this is not directly on the subject of mission, it is about the church taking action and being a voice. I have been following the reports in the UK press today regarding the requests from at least 3 British university research departments to mix the cells of animals and humans. Both The Times and The Telegraph have covered this and I have made comments on their sites.

The thrust of my argument is this:

Any reasonable argument against the creation of Chimeric embryos is going to get shot down by various attempts to appeal to our post-modern need for absolute health.

Hollywood Stars, cut down in their prime by disease, will tug at our communal heart strings and plea for this research to proceed so that they can return to the Silver Screen and entertain us as before.

My fear is this entire debate will be focused on any potential life-saving or life-enhancing benefits the research might bring. The real issue, blending human and animal into one being, will be glossed over until we find that some notoriety chasing
scientist has gone too far and produces a humanoid rabbit.

This has must be stopped.

I trust that the religious leaders will speak up and speak out against this.

Welcome - The mission shaped Church

I have decided to create this blog as an independent instrument away from my main website. I hope that this will enable greater interaction and reach a wider group of interested people than my website. I will post a link to this on my main site and have back-linked that site here. I have also been able to link this site with Technorati for easier searching and theme challenging and this will hopefully increase the ‘hits’ and cross exchange of ideas and information.

I look forward to your comments and sharing ideas.

Kevin