By The Rev. A. Wayne Schwab
A Sample 6-hour Workshop
Vestry to Arrive at a Vision of Mission
[Used at St. John’s, Essex, NY, 1/7/01; 9 am to 3 pm with lunch at Noon; the priest-in-charge participated in the worksheets and sharing of responses.]
a. Opening Bible reflection and prayer.
b. A theology:
God is mission. God’s mission is to overcome evil and bring all humanity and nature to fulfillment.God’s mission has a church. The church does not have a mission. The mission has a church.
The church shares in God’s mission as works for justice, peace, and love everywhere.
The baptized have joined that mission and share in it as they work for justice, peace, and love wherever they are.
The baptized find themselves in six daily arenas: home and friendships, work – school for students, local community, wider world, leisure / recreation, church.
Each of us has specific missions at each moment in each arena -or mission field.
The church is where we learn about how to live God’s mission and where we receive the power to live that way.
Today’s first goal: experiment with naming one of our current missions; use this discovery as a key to how we are missionaries; revise one last time – if needed and for now – our vision for mission.
c. Working alone, each completed this worksheet:
1. Pick one of these mission fields where you are working to make things better.
2. What are you trying to make better there?
3. What are you working against?
4. Considering your gifts, limitations, and convictions, what do you want to help happen there?
d. Responses were shared and the next worksheet was completed.
Circle the mission field in which you are working: home, work, local community, wider world, leisure, or church.
From the previous worksheet, write your answer to #2 in #3; write your answer to #3 in #2; write your answer to #4 in #4. Then think through and write in your answers to 1, 5, 6, and 7.
What has God been doing/telling me through my life in this mission field?
What conditions inhibit reconciliation, justice, and love (peacemaking, fairness, and caring) in this mission field?
What change is needed to increase reconciliation, justice, and love (peacemaking, fairness, and caring) in this mission field?
What will I do to achieve this change considering my gifts, limitations, and convictions?
What vision (description of what I will do) will I use to draw others into working with me for this change?
How will I talk of God while I am sharing my vision (what I plan to do) or following through on it?
How will I invite others to join me at Jesus’ table to be fed and empowered to achieve this vision? (How will I encourage others to seek help in church life?)
[The assumptions (as on pp. 189-191 of When the Members are the Missionaries) behind each question were attached to aid in completing the worksheet.]
e. Responses were shared. Then, working from this common experience, the priest shared the following vision statement as something to work from.
The mission of St. John’s (as discussed with the Vestry, 11/14/00, when this workshop was planned):
What? As a congregation of the Episcopal Diocese of Albany, we share in God’s work of
calling, forming, sending, and supporting Christians as agents of love and justice shown to us through the life of Jesus Christ,
Where? In every arena of daily living: home, work, leisure, neighborhood, wider world, and church.
Who? All the baptized of St. John’s are missionaries along with their friends and associates who accept their request to join with them in specific tasks.
Another way to word “What?” Jesus is most concerned about how lovingly and justly we live wherever we are all the time. We come to his table on Sunday for direction in how to live and power to live that way during the coming week.
[A few minutes after starting, the priest sensed he needed to provide a beginning point. He offered: “to share in God’s work of calling, forming, sending, and supporting the members as agents of God’s love and justice as known in Jesus Christ.” After about 30 mins. of editing, the following statement emerged and, though shortened, is still in use. “At St. John’s Episcopal Church in Essex, NY, we all share in God’s work of calling, forming, sending, and supporting Christians as agents of love, justice, and peace as shown through the life of Jesus Christ. We seek to live this way in every part of life: home, work, local community, wider world, leisure, and church.”]
f. With only 30 minutes left, a 4-page handout (this had been prepared as a “take-home” piece that would, most likely, only be summarized with about 15 minutes kept for comment) on “The Place of Sacraments in God’s Mission” was summarized emphasizing:
– the Episcopal sense of God’s presence among us in Jesus Christ at the Eucharist as found in the biblical narrative (Luke 24: 13-35 and Acts2:42) and in Anglican tradition; our shared thanksgiving for the story of God’s past and continuing work to overcome evil as the heart of consecration;
– an overview of baptism and confirmation / reaffirmation;
– the priest’s desire to recover confirmation / reaffirmation / reception in the congregation (they had been de-emphasized for almost 20 years); and
– reaffirming one’s commitment to the mission of Jesus Christ at the Eucharist.
[From this session on, the mission statement has been posted in the Parish Hall and continually placed in as many publications of the church as possible.]