I’ve been enjoying a week off work, exploring northern university cities with Luci and learning just how very paralysing a neck can be (made the fatal error of coughing in my sleep on Tuesday night, as a result of which Wednesday and Thursday vanished as if they'd never been…Just who decreed that one should always be ill during holidays?? It’s not fair!) While I've been away, there’s been a lot of discussion on mission and evangelism about the place. Maggi is rejoicing that overt "come and fill our pews" evangelism is not part of her job description, while Tom is considering ways of engaging with those who will be more deterred than encouraged by worship in their parish church and Dave has a critique of manipulative techniques that seek to scare or bribe people into the Kingdom. All in all, there's lots that I'm glad not to be doing...However,no prizes for guessing that the subject is one which concerns me hugely: after all, there's not much point in being in full- time ministry, if you don't long to share something of the Good News with a needy world. But how...?
As I think I’ve mentioned before, St Mary’s ' mission statement' is a pretty accurate expression of where the church is at the moment. It reads…
“To nourish our spiritual growth through worship and to encourage more people
to find God through reaching out into the community"
The church has a proud tradition of Anglo Catholic worship and there remains a great hope that if that works, all else will follow. Hence the tension between rash “young” curates (if only!), who want to challenge the way things are done, (or at least to ensure that everyone knows just why they are done that way) , and those who assert that beautiful worship has a stand-alone value, which will inevitably attract people to the God whom it celebrates. Visiting another parish of similar churchmanship, but less demanding traditions last weekend, I was refreshed by the lack of anxiety, which was only partially the result of my own "off duty" status. I think we might be in danger of letting the hows of worship ovewhelm the whys, with disasterous effect.
Of course, many do find nourishment and inspiration Sunday by Sunday, which enables them to live as Kingdom people all through the week, but sometimes the connection between Sunday worship and Monday world feels scarily tenuous. Too often, too, the church seems to exert a kind of centrifugal force, sucking in the energies of those in its orbit, rather than sending them forth, inspired to live and work to God's praise and glory. Perhaps in our emphasis on Eucharist thanksgiving rather than Mass (Ite, Missa est) we are unconsciously reinforcing this inward pull...but as a Eucharistic community, we are called to bring the whole of our lives to the altar.
Worship and mission are inextricably connected, and neither can be a substitute for the other. Achieving a balance should, by God's grace, enable us to be good news for our communities...but how?