As we come together across the county to form ecumenical mission communities, one of the questions that I frequently hear is: What difference is this going to make? Is this just about making do with less? Is anything really going to change?
God for All inspires and challenges us to grasp wholeheartedly this opportunity, as we form mission communities, to take stock, to reflect on what we really understand by the term mission. What it means to be invited to engage in God’s mission in this time and place? What does the good news look like in the communities that we are seeking to serve? What can we learn from listening and paying attention to those we meet and spend time with, looking and listening for what God is doing in our communities and discovering ways in which we can join in.
Across the county, mission communities are using Mission Shaped Introduction, a six week programme that provides engaging and participative materials to help shape and guide these important conversations, conversations that are all about helping us to ensure, right from the word go, that our mission communities are really about mission, that they are servant hearted, outward looking and imaginative, tapping into our God given creativity. This conversation opens up new ways of thinking about and being church and how we connect with the communities we are called to serve.
“The mix of activities and reflections and discussions was really stimulating.” (Comment from one of the participants who recently took part in MSI)
This autumn St Mary’s Harrington and The Church of the Holy Spirit, Distington, joined together to use the Mission Shaped introduction materials to guide their conversation about how they could become more mission shaped as church. Over the course of six sessions we looked at how God’s mission is the foundation for any expression of Church; we explored what mission looks like in the context of our changing world and how the church might respond to a world of change and uncertainty. We thought about people’s longing to belong and how as church we can offer authentic community. We reflected on what it means to worship and how we can use our gifts, skills and imagination to create expressions of worship that are accessible and transformational, and connect with our communities. We thought about the importance of growing and learning together as disciples and reflected on how we could enable and support each other as we learn about and live out the call to follow Jesus in the whole of our lives. We discussed how we could encourage and equip those who are emerging as leaders in our communities. At the end of our time together we reflected on what we had shared, learnt and discovered, identifying the next steps on the journey towards being a mission shaped church.
“I really enjoyed the worship session. It made me think about different ways and ideas for worship….we have some good ideas that will help us as we move forward.” (Comment from one of the participants who recently took part in MSI).
One of the questions that really challenged us and opened us to new ways of thinking, was to imagine what church might look like for my friend? Watching some of the film clips of fresh expressions of church helped us to see what was possible and how we too could think outside the box and take risks for God. We began to realise how important it was to listen humbly and attentively to what our communities were saying about their hopes, dreams, worries and challenges, joys and needs?
“I have gained an awful lot from each week and am more inspired to listening to what God is saying?”
“This has fired my imagination to keep open doors/ to open doors for folks in our communities,”(Comments from participants on a recent MSI session).
Whilst this was a challenging conversation, it was also greatly encouraging as the group identified the ways in which they had and were continuing to reach out into their community. MSI is about building on the missional thinking and activity that is already taking place rather than starting from scratch.
“The sessions showed us that we had made some good progress. We received lots of ideas about how to move further forward,” (Comment from a participant on a recent MSI session).
There are 6 mission communities engaging with MSI from January to March and 6 more from April to July. If your mission community would like to take part in Mission Shaped Introduction, do get in touch with Nicki Pennington at CCL. CCL can offer you training for leading the sessions and resources to support you as you take part.
MSI enables the beginning of culture changing conversations that is exploring, and offering ideas in response to the question, ‘What does a mission shaped community look like?’ Why don’t you join in the conversation?
Author: Revd Nicki Pennington
Learning Development Team Leader
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