Friday, November 1, 2013


For a while now, we have been working on a Mission Action Plan or a strategic plan for our parish. I'm thoroughly convinced that this kind of planning is important, but I'm also aware that well intentioned planning processes often create plans that are either vapid or incomprehensible - and frequently both. (And not only in Churchland, either.)

Sometimes the name and dedication of a church can give some guidance to mission planning. I've heard of parishes dedicated to St. Luke that exercise a particular ministry towards physicians, nurses and other health care workers, for example.

Our parish church is dedicated to St. James the Apostle. Over the past year or so, this has led to some conversations with my unpaid curate about the prospect of having some members of the parish walk the Camino in Spain, the traditional pilgrimage to the relics of St. James at Santiago de Compostella.

Which got me to thinking ...

One of the central images of discipleship is the journey.  Jesus was constantly telling people, "Follow me." The Gospel narratives about Jesus teaching ministry are all set in the context of journeys to and from Jerusalem. As Geoffrey Tristram, SSJE recently preached:
Scripture is filled with great journeys. Jacob’s flight from his brother Esau, Joseph sold into slavery, and his journey into Egypt. The great journey of the Exodus from Egypt to the Promised Land. The journey of the wise men to see Jesus. Jesus’ journey into the wilderness. Paul’s journey from Jerusalem to Damascus. It seems that God loves to invite us to make journeys. Because through the journey God teaches us, forms us, invites us to grow and change into the person God longs for us to be. To become fully who we were created to be.

I have often been struck by a tagline I first heard of in association with All Saints Church in Pasadena.  I don't know if it originated there, but it has seemed to me to capture the nature of post-modern evangelism. I'll admit I've cribbed the concept.
Whoever you are ... 
Wherever you've come from ... 
Wherever you are on your journey of faith ...You are welcome here.

Arguably it is an invitation to pause in the journey. But I think, more accurately, it is an invitation to come and join a group of pilgrims so that we can journey together.

So the invitation is not, per se, to join our congregation or to affiliate with our brand of Christianity. It is not to sign on to the Thirty-Nine Articles nor to conform to a particular understanding of the Eucharistic Mystery. It is an invitation to walk together in faith, into deeper faith.

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