Embracing Our Baptismal Promises Through Mission Experiences and Pilgrimages

Mission MondaysToday’s Mission Monday post is another excerpt from the forthcoming Episcopal Youth in Mission Manual. This article, from the introductory pages of the draft Manual, explores the understanding of mission we gather from the promises made at Baptism. [Read more…]

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Me, Called to Mission?

Mission MondaysAs Christians we are called to join God’s mission. As the Christian Church, we are called to serve in mission in communion with all the saints.

But, discerning our particular personal and communal role in engaging God’s mission can feel overwhelming, unclear or even confusing.

So, how do we get started on such a monumental task?

Perhaps it is most helpful to begin with prayerful thought about WHO God is calling you to become through a mission opportunity:

A Companion: God is calling our church, as a whole, to be a companion with other churches and beyond.  Dioceses and congregations are living out their calling to become companions with dioceses and congregations in our country and around the world.  Individual missionaries are ministering as companions in the places where they are called to serve.  Literally, companions share bread together. Look at Matthew 14:13-21.

A Witness:  “You are witnesses of these things,” said Jesus to his disciples. Witness in a word means sharing the story of what God has done with us, in light of the story of what God has done in Christ Jesus. Such witnessing is the natural and inevitable fruit of a life in Christ, and it is the heart of evangelism as a mission imperative.  Look at John 4:1-42.

A Pilgrim:  Episcopal missionaries today see themselves as pilgrims, growing in their knowledge of God through the perspectives of the people to whom they are sent, learning as much as they share, receiving as much as they give.  Look at Hebrews 11:13-16.

A Servant: “I came not to be served but to serve,” said Jesus. Servanthood in mission means that we listen to the stated needs of our mission companions, look for signs of God’s work in them, and collaborate with them in discerning how God is guiding the implementation of mission vision. It means that missionaries and the church put aside prior images of our companions, preconceived analyses of their situations, and ready-made solutions to their problems.  Look at Philippians 2:1-11.

A Prophet: Episcopal mission pilgrims today often find their views of political, racial, and economic relationships in the world challenged and transformed.  Experiences of poverty, suffering, and violence alongside experiences of affluence, oppression, and security often radicalize missionaries, whether they are long-term missioners, visiting bishops, or short-term teams. These are prophesy to the sending church, prodding it to inquire more deeply into dynamics about which it may have become complacent or resigned.  Look at Isaiah 61:1-4.

An Ambassador: In addition to witness in word and deed as ambassadors of Christ, the missionary and missionary community are ambassadors of the sending church.  This calls for living out the highest ethical standards in personal honesty, respect for others, financial transparency, and faithfulness in personal and professional relationships.  Look at 1 Timothy: 4:6-16.

A Host: “Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet,” said Abraham to the three strangers who appeared at Mamre.  “Let it be to me according to your word,” said Mary to the angel Gabriel. In initiating mission, God is not forcible but invites a response of hospitality. Look at Luke 10:38-42 or John 11:1-12.

A Sacrament: As the body of Christ, the church is a sacrament of Christ, an outward and visible sign of Christ’s inward and spiritual grace.  As members of the body, all Christians participate in the communion of the saints and so are members of the sacramental revelation of God, embodied in the incarnation of Jesus Christ. A Christian on mission is a sacramental sign of God’s mission to reconcile all people with one another and God in Christ. Look at Luke 24:13-35.

As you are planning a mission experience for next year – or maybe as you are planning to join us in 3 Days of Urban Mission following the Episcopal Youth Event 2014 – WHO are you and your faith community being called to be as missionaries of Christ?

This blog post is another excerpt from the forthcoming Episcopal Youth in Mission Manual, which is being co-written by Cookie Cantwell (Diocese of East Carolina), Beth Crow (Diocese of North Carolina), and Wendy Johnson (Diocese of Minnesota). The Manual is still in production. However, in support of Mission Monday, portions are being made available for posting on the EpiscoYouth blog.

Planning a Mission Experience

Mission MondaysTo help leaders prepare for mission experiences, we are incorporating a Youth in Mission Planning Timeline into the forthcoming Episcopal Youth in Mission Manual.

Essentially, there are 3 key elements to every transformative mission experience:

  • planning
  • preparation
  • prayer

Planning
If possible, begin planning your trip 9-12 months ahead. Work with an adult leadership team and start making lists of details. Regularly comb through this list to ensure you aren’t forgetting anything. Create a budget and, if necessary, a fundraising plan designed to help you reach your goal before the experience dates.

Use the Youth in Mission Planning Timeline as a checklist, of sorts, to ensure you are on track.

Preparation
Make sure your youth, adult leaders, and families are prepared and open to this transformative opportunity. Hold regular meetings to talk through the mission experience, expectations, guidelines, and any details you have about where you are going and what you might be doing. This is critical both to setting expectations and building trust among participants and the community.

Research the community you are visiting. Find out what you can about living conditions, food, cultural norms, faith practices, and any other relevant demographics.

Prayer
Plan Bible studies for the traveling group and sponsor at least one retreat so that you are placing the Gospel at the center of the experience.

Commit to praying for the community you will be visiting. Ask all participants to hold the experience and the community in prayer. Be sure to incorporate prayer into any meetings or youth group activities. Also add the prayers to your faith community’s prayer list.

Before you leave, incorporate a commissioning event into the main service in your faith community, asking members to lift up participants in prayer.

Download the Youth in Mission Planning Timeline now to get your mission experience started off on the right footing. We will be releasing additional excerpts from the upcoming Episcopal Youth in Mission Manual in coming weeks that will add details and meaning to this Timeline.

Finally, I encourage you to contact me or Valerie Harris for advice on any mission experience you are planning. Either we can help you or we can connect you with someone who can.

Getting Serious About Transformative Mission Experiences

Sheryl Kujawa-HolbrookToday’s Mission Monday blog post is by the Rev. Sheryl A. Kujawa-Holbrook, VP of Academic Affairs and Dean of Faculty at Claremont School of Theology. She serves as professor of practical theology and religious education at Claremont School of Theology, and as professor of Anglican Studies at Bloy House, the Episcopal Theological School at Claremont. Sheryl originally wrote this piece for a mission exchange project initiated several years ago. As we resurrect this important project under the new working title, Episcopal Youth in Mission, her words are as timely as ever. I encourage you to carefully read and process Sheryl’s wisdom before planning your next mission experience.

Mission Mondays

Social Action Projects:
A More Excellent Way

As the summer program season approaches, many congregations and dioceses begin planning social action or “mission” trips with young people. But just how meaningful are these “trips”?

Such learning experiences can build self-esteem and leadership skills, as well as a greater sense of social responsibility. Yet well-intentioned projects far too often fall short of potential benefits, becoming primarily opportunities for travel on the part of the sponsors, and sources of anger or feelings of powerlessness for those visited. Some projects, emphasizing work and the desire to help others, only reinforce the status quo, rather than offering a transformative opportunity for young people to see the world anew.

Social action projects for young people, in order to be transformative experiences, need to both educate young people on how oppression operates in our society, and stress how we, who are part of the dominant culture, participate in that oppression. Rather than patronize the poor and the oppressed, participants need to learn to recognize how God is already at work among those they encounter.

These are just the opening paragraphs of this powerful article. Download the full article, Social Action Projects: More Excellent Wayfor Sheryl’s criteria for congregations and dioceses planning mission experiences for youth.