Building Momentum for our Mission: A Reflection

by Ian MacKay - September 15, 2013 A reflection on Matthew 4:18-20, Matthew 18:18-20 Listen to the audio recording

A year ago last August, at our annual Church Council retreat, we were discussing what we wanted to accomplish in the coming church year when one of our newer members innocently asked whether we had a Mission Statement and whether we might use it to help establish our priorities. Some of us around the circle, myself included, had to sheepishly admit that we did have an old Mission Statement but none of us had it or could remember exactly what it said. So much for that guiding document!

Right then and there it became clear that we needed to come up with a new expression of our Mission here at Trinity and to do that we needed to fully understand what this spiritual community is all about in 2013.

This led to our congregational workshop in January, and the congregational survey. The results of the workshop and survey were overwhelmingly positive with most expressing their enthusiastic support for things they like the most about this community. Some even told moving, personal stories about how the Trinity community has changed or is changing their lives. The fact that people here feel comfortable enough to be that open in survey is a true testament to what a great place this is.

Above all, the workshop and survey provided a rich body of information from which we were able to begin to draft statements about who we are, how we practice and what we believe. These statements were then validated with the congregation in the spring and our Church Council approved the final version of the Momentum for Mission document at the end of May. And it is this final version that we celebrate today.

What you now have before you is, as accurately as we can make it, a description of this spiritual community. A description that, in simple clear language, sets out what we stand for: who we are, how we practice and what we believe. And it came from you.

We now have a document that we can use to tell people outside these walls, what this spiritual community is all about. And, by the way, in a Canada where only 19% regularly attend any place of worship and most 30 to 45 year-olds perceive that all churches are judgmental, arrogant and unwilling to listen, it is critical that we have a means to show the outside world that we are different.

More importantly, we now have clear guidance on the areas we must focus on in the future. We have a document that will allow us to Build Momentum for our Mission.

For me, one of the most striking things in the Momentum of Mission document is that the statements all begin with the pronoun “WE”. From this it is clear, that everything we do here we do as community.

For those 81% who don’t come to church, sure you can study the bible by yourself, be a follower of Jesus on your own, and be an open and welcoming person. BUT it is more effective and just plain better to be able to do it together. It is hard to be a critical thinker if you are only criticizing yourself!

Material provided to our Sunday school teachers for today’s lesson speaks of the importance of doing it together:

in an authentic spiritual community we can discover more existentially that we are all part of one divine creation. When we discover similarities in the joys and sorrows of our individual stories; when we practice true compassion while also holding each other to account; when we learn from our differences and disagreements because we recognize each other as a living part of divine creation, something changes….such practices can result in an awakening that allows us to see that divinity is all around us and within us.

Jesus knew this too: when he called on Peter and Andrew to fish for people, this was a call to go and bring spiritual people together!

The second implication of “WE”, for me, is that if we really want make God’s kingdom on earth, its up to us make it happen. God’s plan for this earth is 4.5 billion years old and counting, so if we want to see differences in our life times, we can’t wait, not even for divine inspiration. Jesus knew this too when he said:

“Take this most seriously: a yes on earth is yes in heaven; a no on earth is a no in heaven. What you say to one another is eternal. I mean this.“

Can you imagine Jesus speaking this way? He continues

“When two of you get together on anything at all on earth and make a prayer of it, my Father in heaven joins you in action. And when two or three of you are together because of me, you can be sure that I’ll be there.”

These are more that just comforting words about the presence of God and Jesus; they are a call to action!

When the US Army was finally sent into New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and the botched and wholly inadequate response to the disaster up to that point, the commanding General was asked on US television what would be his approach to relieving the suffering in that beleaguered city. His answer? “Get er done”, get it done. I think that is what Jesus is saying to us too. You want to see God’s Kingdom on earth?…then get on with it!

Well, get on with what exactly? This brings us back to our Momentum for Mission document. At a superficial level some of these statements of who we are, how we practice and what we believe might seem a bit smug, however make no mistake, whatever it is we say we are, or do, or believe, we can do more of, be better at or have a deeper understanding of.

We proved this at this year’s Church Council retreat held three weeks ago when each member of Council was given one of the Momentum for Mission statements and asked to come up with something we could do to fulfill it better. In the space of 45 minutes we had a to-do list far in excess of our current capacity to deliver.

Likewise when you were asked last winter and spring to provide your input into the Momentum for Mission workshop and survey, we received numerous constructive suggestions, most of which, if not all, fit nicely within the Momentum for Mission statements.

Together all of these ideas represent a substantial list of things that can be done to make God’s kingdom here on earth and we must now figure out how to begin to do them.

Now, “WE” must embrace our mission. We must love it, tweak it when necessary, and live it in everything we do here at Trinity. The next time a new member of Church Council or a stranger, someone looking for a church maybe, asks what we do here, we need to point to Momentum for Mission and say “this is what we do here, with God’s Grace and infinite blessing, to the best of our abilities.” By fulfilling this noble task, the spiritual community that is Trinity United Church will do its part to make God’s Kingdom on earth a reality here and now.




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