Every Member a Missionary at St. Alban’s Church Parish, Washington, DC

By The Rev. A. Wayne Schwab

St. Alban’s Church Parish Weekend
Peterkin Conference Center, Romney, WV
October 3-5, 2003

EVERY MEMBER A MISSIONARY

Saturday, October 4, 10:00 – 3:00 p.m.

Morning, 10:00 a.m. to Noon

Discovering our present missions
1.  Introduction: God’s mission and member missions
A theology
Three parables and our six mission fields
2.  Discovering my own daily missions
Trios and plenaries
3.  Discovering the Spirit’s gifts for one of my missions
Trios and plenary
Lunch

Afternoon, 1:00 – 3:00 p.m.
Building a team for each mission
1.  Introduction: Steps in team building
The steps
Two samples
2.  Practice in team building
Trios, demonstration, and plenary
3.  Going on from here

God is most concerned about how we live from Monday to Saturday. 
Sunday – and all of church life – give us the guidance and power we need to live better.
[The above was the first page of the participants’ workbook.  On the wall were two newsprint charts reading: “God is on mission.  The mission is God’s mission.  The church does not have a mission.  The mission has a church.” and “Jesus Christ is the visible center of God’s mission.  When we are baptized, we join the mission.  We are on mission – missionaries – 24/7/365.]

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Morning, 10:00 a.m. to Noon
Discovering our present missions

1. Introduction: God’s mission and member missions

First, I want to share the special treat it is to be here with you.  Being here is a kind of homecoming. St. Alban’s was my first church.  I cried the day I went to Sunday School. My parents did not want to endure that again.  They had gotten my two older brothers through to confirmation.  So from age 6 to about age 10, they took me with them to 8:00 a.m. Holy Communion at St. Alban’s.  Early church let my father get off to his real estate business by 10:00 a.m..  So I got started as a eucharist-centered Christian long before the 1979 Prayer Book.

Second, a note about the rare privilege to have been the first ever Evangelism Officer of the Episcopal Church from 1975-93.  I probably qualified because I could talk both social activism and personal faith.  So I found I was working out a way for evangelicals and charismatics to work with social activists in evangelism.  For a while, the publications people said our stuff was selling the best.  During the Decade of Evangelism, Sunday attendance kept growing.  What grew the most, for me,  was understanding the complexity of evangelism.  It all began to blossom as I came up to retirement.  I wanted to keep going in getting to the core of Evangelism for today’s world.  Work with the National Council of Churches and a pilot project sponsored by Trinity Church in New York City led me to the vision in When the Members are the Missionaries: An Extraordinary Calling for Ordinary People.

And, now for some of the theology that underlies what we will be doing.

[The following 3 paragraphs of a theology of mission were p. 2 of the workbook – included  because this was probably new thinking and might be needed for reference.]
God is always on Mission.  The mission of God is to overcome evil, sin, and death to bring the whole of creation to the fulfillment God wants for it.   Love and justice are the characteristic works of God’ mission.  Wherever we meet love and justice, we are meeting God.  Remember that justice – equality, genuine equality in all things – is the public face of love.  You can love people face-to-face but in a crowd you love by being just.

In Jesus Christ, God’s mission becomes visible as Jesus, by the power of God – God’s reign or kingdom – overcomes evil, sin, and death, and continues to work through the Holy Spirit to bring the whole of creation to the fulfillment God wills for it – for love and justice to be all in all.  The church does not have a mission.  The mission has a church.  In baptism, we join God’s mission in Jesus Christ.  We become the Lord’s co-workers seeking to bring the good news of God’s victory over evil in deed and word to every part of the creation.  Since God in Christ is already at work – on mission – in every part of life, we seek to join our Lord in what He is already doing to increase love and justice wherever we are.  We work with any who work for greater love and justice where they are.  And, remember that environmental responsibility is the way we humans live out God’s justice for the creation.

To be a Christian is to be on mission always.  All Christians are called to be missionaries wherever we are all the time – 24/7/365.

Emphasis on mission is hardly new.  The General Convention’s 20/20 is reaching for it.  Mission has become today’s watchword for church life.

The key question for this 21st century is who are the primary agents of God’s mission?  Is it the church in whatever it does as a body?  These are the “body-missions” of programs and service and advocacy which the church takes on as a whole or through one of its parts.  Are food shelves and shelters for the homeless and resolutions and lobbyists for justice in Congress the most effective agents of mission?

The answer grows among many of us that the primary agents of mission in today’s world are each of the baptized in their daily arenas of home and work and community from the local to the national level to the family of nations and our leisure or re-creation – as well as the church.  The baptized are in the boardrooms and at the keyboards and framing out new homes and teaching.  They have  the real power to increase love and justice in today’s world.  These are “member- missions” –  what the members do to increase love and justice wherever they are all the time.  We are not here to choose between body-missions and member-missions.  We are here to lift up and to empower member-missions.  That is what we will do this morning and this afternoon.

Three parables.  They are true stories.

We settled in upstate Essex, New York on retirement.  We found the local school board was being sued by the superintendent they had just fired.  I began to investigate.  I had become the priest-in-charge of our small congregation when the priest accepted a call elsewhere.  A retired vice president of General Electric pulled me aside.  “Rev. Schwab, why don’t you get the clergy to do something?  You should get the board and the superintendent to together and tell them to work this thing out!”  He really thought that would work!

This is the constant error of so many today.  The church does not have that power today.  That would have worked in 1203.  It might have worked as late as 1903.  But it will not work in 2003.  The real missionaries in that situation where the baptized among the school board members and the state agencies advising them on the one hand and the superintendent and his lawyers on the other hand.  They had the member-missions.  The body missions of the clergy as representatives of their congregations were powerless.  We could pray.  But others made the decisions – with or without prayer.

My next two parables are about explicit member-missions.  Each of us has not one but six daily mission fields.  That’s a new idea for many.  We usually think of having a mission, not six missions.  The full truth is that we have six mission fields.

[This list and the daily missions of Susan and Jim were p. 3 of the workbook for reference.]

Our six daily mission fields are:
home (includes family or close friends)
work (includes school and volunteer work)
local community (neighborhood, town, or city)
wider world (society, culture, economics, or government in county, state, nation, and world)
leisure / re-creation and spiritual growth
church

In each of these, we are at work right now to increase love and justice.  We may not see what we are doing as missions. They are.  They are specific and they cost and they are done only with God’s help.
*[Note the date of this plan as 10/4/07. Spirituality had not yet been separated from leisure and church had not yet been divided into spiritual health and church life and outreach.]

Susan’s six current daily missions:
[I told Susan’s story of mission in her local community of San Bernardino CA in the book.  A few weeks ago, I called and asked for 15 minutes at the most to hear about her other mission fields.  Here is what I got – and in 15 minutes!  She had learned to think “member-mission.”]

In that local community, she has just started a farmer’s market in the 64 acre park in her ward.  It’s very successful in its 4th week.  The money raised from vendors’ fees will renovate the abandoned outdoor amphitheater in the park with the sound and light systems it needs.

At her work in water resources, she is preparing a tv program on how perchlorate – the chemical used to burn rocket fuel and open air bags in our cars – is contaminating the water of 22 states with southern California having the worst contamination.  Perchlorate affects the thyroid in children and elderly people.

In the wider world, she pursues her work in water resources to secure the legislation and funding needed to protect the water for future generations.  As she puts it, California’s fate is bound up with its water resources’

At home, her second marriage is bringing the life companion that makes the world better for both husband and wife and for her three sons.

For leisure or re-creation, Susan runs.  She will do the 34th marathon in New York on her 52nd birthday, she says, “When I run, problems become clearer and thoughts come together.”

In church, besides congregational worship, she encourages her value-centered but nonchurch husband saying, “You may not know who leads you but I do.”  Thus, she celebrates her husband’s latent faith. [See 1 Cor 7:14.]

I loved her last words as we finished, “It’s an honor to be one of the lay people out there.  My church roots have served me well.”  Susan serves the kingdom well.

Jim’s six current daily missions:
[I told Jim’s story in the book also.  There, he told of his mission of peacekeeping in their home.  He and Mary have four young boys of their own and Jim’s teenage daughter from his first marriage.]

Now, his mission at home is to prepare to leave his nighttime management job for a daytime laboring job so that Mary can spread and publish her creative innovations in teaching high school chemistry.  At school, students call Mary a “hard teacher.”

At work, Jim is routing manager for a trucking company.  He practices preserving harmony and peaceful coexistence by avoiding attempts of those around him to be drawn into vindictive words and actions between labor and management.

In their local community, Jim and Mary work with “Project Graduation.”  After their prom, graduating seniors go to a health club where they are locked in from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m..  They swim, dance, climb walls, and have all the food and soft drinks they could want.  Needless to say, the seniors who go have signed up on their own with their parents’ urging!

In the wider world, Jim and Mary help with mailings to secure funds for the children’s museum in nearby Newark, NJ.  Their son who has a mild form of ADD has opened them to the value of such museums.

For leisure or re-creation, Jim plays golf once or twice a month.  Mary works out her schedule to give him the needed free time and she even gave him a set of new clubs.

In church life, they use their informal conversations to support the acceptance of gay and lesbian lifestyles among church folk.  Their gay best man’s difficulties opened their eyes to the need to be candid about the justice needed for all like him.

You have been listening a good while.  Let’s stop to deal with some of your questions and observations at this point.  I hope you are clear on these three themes.

  • Our specific goals are missions.
  • Difference between member-missions and body-missions
  • Not one, but six mission fields
    home                          wider world
    work                          leisure / re-creation and spiritual growth
    local community          church
    [These themes were on newsprint to aid discussion.]

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  1. Discovering my own daily missions

Now let’s get down to finding your own daily missions. Working alone, take ten minutes to complete the following chart.  [The chart was p. 4 of the workbook.]

Discovering my own daily missions

What am I doing now to make each mission field more loving or more just?  (See Susan’s and Jim’s stories as samples.  Feel free to name the simplest of loving or just actions.)

1) Home (all in the home or closest friends)

 

 

 

2) Work (includes school and volunteer work)

 

 

 

3) Local community (neighborhood, town, or city)

 

 

 

4) Wider world (society, culture, economics, or government in county, state, nation, and world)

 

 

 

5) Leisure / re-creation and spiritual growth

 

 

 

6) Church

 

 

[This was a good place to take a ten minute break.  Time was 10:55 a.m..]

 

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[The following directions through to Noon were p. 5 of the workbook so participants would have them in hand for reference.]

Trios
Form trios with those you know less well.  Each shares their responses. [about 10-12 minutes]

Reflection
Leader: “The good news is that, wherever you work to increase love and justice, you are part of God’s mission to increase love and justice there.  Look at each of your daily mission fields.  Note where you have any difficulty believing that what you are doing in each field is part of God’s work there and, therefore, one of God’s missions for you.  Please reflect in silence.  You will have about three minutes.”

In the same trios:

Leader: In the same trios:
I.  each shares the extent to which they believe they are on God’s mission in each place and the others respond; then
ii.  discuss: To what extent is seeing yourself as a missionary a new discovery for you?  How do you feel about this discovery or rediscovery?

In plenary, the leader asks for sharing of feelings and thoughts about seeing ourselves as missionaries.

 

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  1. Discovering the Spirit’s gifts for one of my missions

Turning back to the same trios
Leader: “Now let’s look at the gifts God has given us for each daily mission.  Do not be bound by what you have heard of the gifts listed by Paul in Romans and 1 Corinthians.  Feel free to use today’s words for the gifts you will hear at work in each person’s story.  For this next step:

  1. each picks one crucial field, describes it in a little more detail, and the other two tell the gifts they see at work in what is being done;
  2. when all three have shared, discuss: ‘These are God’s gifts to you for this mission: are you surprised, reassured, or both.’” [Allow about 10- 15 minutes.]

In plenary, leaders asks, “What are some of our learnings, observations, or questions about being a missionary?”

Leader closes the morning with. “In the afternoon, we will work on finding the helpers, the team mates we will need to carry on our daily missions.” [Time is about Noon.]

 

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Afternoon, 1:00 – 3:00 p.m.
Building a team for each mission 

  1. Introduction: Steps in Team Building
    [Presentation – these 5 paragraphs were also p.6 in the workbook for reference.]

We need help.  We need to find team mates.  To interest them, we need to phrase what we are trying to do in a way that has appeal and will appeal to them.  As we find them, we need to understand we are drawing them into God’s mission.  That means we need to be able to talk of how our mission is part of God’s mission.  If they are church people, we share with them this dimension of what we are asking them to join us in doing.  If they are not church people, we hold back on the God-talk until we sense that they might welcome hearing of our sense of the depth of what we are trying to do.  With nonchurch people, do have in mind some way to point toward God in the way you phrase the vision.  It can be as simple as “I believe that . . .”

A professor in a Washington state teacher’s college does it this way.  She has let it be known that church is very important to her.  She finds that careful use of “I believe . . .” is heard by her students as pointing to an ultimate frame of reference.  For example when talking of teaching values, she will say, “I believe we must teach all ages to learn to do what they don’t want to do well.”

At times with a nonchurch person, we can point to the wider context even more directly in this way.  “Can I share something personal?  I need a wider context for this vision.  I see it as a ministry – as part of my responsibility as a church member to be on mission in all that I do.”

Finally, we owe it to all we work with to share our sense of who it is on whom we rely as the ultimate source of the power to carry on our mission.  For church people, that is as easy as saying, “Let’s keep each other and this mission in our daily prayers;” or “Let’s not forget to take this mission to church on Sundays, offer it to the Lord, and ask for his help to do it the coming week.”  For nonchurch people, when we sense the time is right, we say something like, “Can I share something with you about how deeply I feel about this vision?  (If the answer is “yes,” go on.)  I see it as a kind of mission.  And I know I need help to do it.  I rely on God for the power I need.  Maybe you will have a sense of need for help, too.  If so, maybe, offer the kind of brief prayer I do – just plain ‘God help us.’” And, if this is well received, you might say, “Church is the place I go for the help I find I need.  If you want to come with me some time to see if this might be real for you too, just let me know.”

I trust you begin to see the “evangelism” in what I am saying.  It begins with deeds of love and justice.  In that framework, we talk of God as our guide and our source of power.  And what we say is shaped by the mission and our sense of what might connect with our new team mate.  Notice that our God-talk is something the other deserves to hear when the time is right.  It is not an intrusion but a sharing of who we are.  Many times it may be the most powerful “storytelling” we ever do.  In a few words, you are saying, “God is real for me and might be real for you too.”  I believe this is a much more apt way in evangelism than asking the other to listen to many words of our own coming to faith.  Hold your own story for a later time and, when that time comes, tell your story in a way that will connect with what you have come to know about the other person.  This approach may sound hard.  In the long-run, it is easier – and more fun.

Did you catch the following steps in team building?
[The following through the reflection on Susan’s story was p. 7 of the workbook.]

Steps for team building

  1. Phrase the mission as a vision of what might be.
  2. Think of likely helpers – people who might respond to the vision.
  3. In your own mind, have words to express how the vision is part of God’s mission.
  4. Share the vision with the prospective helper.
  5. Talk of / point to God’s connection with the vision.
  6. Talk of / point to prayer and Sunday worship as places to go for help to follow through on the vision – when the time is right.

[Here are two stories from Susan and Jim.  As I tell them, hear the steps each has gone through.]

Jim finds a team mate

Jim saw he was getting irritable at home because of never getting a break.  He shared this with Mary and wondered if playing golf would give him the break he needed. [The choice of golf may sound very conventional but, for Jim, it was a breakthrough to ask for something for himself.]  He was counting on her to remember their common commitment to God to be the best parents they could be – expressed or implied often in their prayer time together – and, so, to understand his request.  She agreed to plan 4-5 hours twice a month for him to play and sealed the promise with the gift of a new set of clubs.  Their agreement, expressed in the new golf clubs, was one of the thanksgivings Jim offered the following Sunday in church.

Let’s go down the list to see if you can pick out where Jim took each step – or implied it.

Susan finds a team mate
Susan wanted to revive the rundown 64-acre park in her ward by starting a farmers’ market there.  She turned to a man she had met as he coped with an illegal operation of some kind in his neighborhood.  He had so impressed her, she made him her park commissioner. She resolved to try the idea with him.  She asked, “Can you imagine what the park might become again?”  Then she shared her vision of this 64 acre park in the center of the city that might one day hold a senior center and a swimming pool and a “Y” and tennis courts and a sports stadium.  It would build community as a place where folks could just stroll and “people watch.”  For Susan, the farmer’s market would be a step in the direction of God having made us to live together in community and to try to keep each other safe.  At times, with church people, she has said things like, “I am as aware as you are that what we are doing is God’s work.”  While she probably will not talk much of how church can be of support in this effort, her own regular churchgoing does get that message across.

Let’s go down the list to see if you can pick out where Susan took each step – or implied it.

Now let’s practice ourselves.

[What follows through the plenary was p. 8 of the workbook.]

  1. Practice in team building

In the same trios of the morning
Leader: “In the crucial mission field chosen above (re gifts):

each of you thinks of a potential team mate;

works out a vision for the mission that would appeal to that person;

and how, if ‘the flow’ is right, how you might talk of or point to God in the vision;

and invite the other to join you in drawing on God for help.

Demonstration of trying an approach with feedback

The leader has already chosen one of his / her own present missions where a teammate is needed as the situation for the demonstration. Thereby, the leader adheres to the standard of reality. The leader recruits two role players before the session.  The leader describes the format.  The leader will be the missionary seeking a helper. [The principle is that the leader should always be the “goat.”]  The helper is told of the person they will play and what about them makes them a potential teammate.  Whether the potential teammate chooses whether to play the role as a church member or a non church member.  The other person is briefed as the observer who will look for what helped or hindered the exchange – time will probably allow only for one item that helped and one that hindered.  Advise both that you will try to go all the way through to talk of how the vision is connected with God and where to turn for help.  During the feedback time, be sure the potential candidate gets a chance to share their sense of how it went.  End with the missionary describing their sense of how it went.  At the end, make a big thing of thanking the players to help them leave the play behind them – to “de-role” is the jargon word.

In trios again  [At this point, it will be 1:45 – 2 p.m. with about 60 -75 minutes left.  Watch the process.  All may be so involved that they want to work straight through this section without a break.]

Each practices their approach:

describe the person you are asking to be a team mate and one agrees to play that role and the other to observe what seemed to help or hinder the approach;

do it to the end (e. g., talk of prayer and, maybe, Sunday worship);

reflect on how it went beginning with the observer sharing what helped or hindered; then the prospective team mate telling how they saw it; and ending with and the team builder sharing what was sensed in how it went; all get a chance to note what has been learned; finally all three exchange thanks and then move to the next round.

Rotate roles for the second person to practice.

Rotate roles for the third person to practice.

Plenary:
Leader asks:

What are some of the words that express how you are feeling or what you are thinking right now after this pretty heavy work together?

What are some of our learnings and observations – or questions – about being a missionary, now?

 

*   *   *   *   *

 

  1. Going on from here

[For use during this summation, prepare a newsprint that reads: “Help people see they are on mission NOW!  ALREADY, God is at work in their lives.  LOVE / JUSTICE are the SIGN of God’s presence.”  Close with it if you have not used it until then.]
[What follows was p. 9 in the workbook.]

Take responsibility to sustain yourself and each other as missionaries

  • In your own prayer time, pray about a different mission field each day until you learn to think and pray this way as a habit – six mission fields mean one for each day, Monday to Saturday.
  • Take your daily missions to church on Sunday – listen for a word the Spirit may have for you – offer one of your missions in your own prayers and receive the bread and the cup as bearers of the Lord’s help
  • Build up the community at St. Alban’s by making space for people to talk freely about their hopes and concerns for their daily mission fields.
  • Include in preparation for baptism and confirmation (in appropriate ways for adults, youth, and the parents bringing infants for baptism) identifying their own present daily mission fields.  See Appendix A and its revisions on www.membermissionpress.org for ways to do this.
  • Include this same daily mission discovery in some appropriate form in programs for newcomers to St. Alban’s.
  • Wherever you are each day, listen to others for which daily mission field is being talked about and then for what the person is trying to do to make life more loving or more just there – then talk of what concerns the other as a place God is at work and look for how you can be part of that work in your response.

In all, remember:
God is most concerned about how we live from Monday to Saturday.
Sunday – and all of church life – give us the guidance and power we need to live better.

 

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