Over the last year we have been carrying out stages of the Diocesan Mission Action Plan (MAP), which Bishop Gregor has required all charges in the diocese to prepare, writes Rev Sydney Maitland.
Up to now we have been evaluating the 2009 review that was due for revision in November 2014 in order to provide a basis for carrying out our own Mission Action Plan. We have also been asking the question of what God is saying to the church by studying the Letters to the 7 Churches of Revelation 2-3, again as a basis for our own MAP.
The next stage will be to consider six “strands” of church outreach work, and to note against each what we are already doing, what we could do, and most crucially what we will do. This will not of course stop the activities we are already pursuing, but it may point us to new areas where we could develop what is already part of our life as a worshipping community. We will also consider the 6 strands in terms of what strengths and weaknesses we have, what opportunities we can discern, (implicit in this are the constraints that may affect us).
The six strands are:
• Prayer and spirituality: a praying community.
Developing the personal and corporate life of prayer and spirituality of the church community; study groups; alternative worship; growth in liturgical prayer; growth in contemplation and meditation; opportunities for Quiet Days and Retreats; labyrinths; pilgrimage.
• Learning and discipleship: a learning community.
Deepening everyone’s discipleship; seeing the congregation as a place in which all grow in understanding, wisdom and discernment of their particular gifts; extending this idea of vocation to daily life and work; helping people feel valuable and valued, a part of the whole.
• Missional leadership: an intentional community.
Thinking about what kind of community we are called to be, where all see themselves as participants in the whole; evaluating all aspects of congregational life in terms of those who are not yet members, including use of premises and money; “Who can we work with in our communities?”
• Numerical growth, welcome and integration: an affirming community.
Knowing we are part of something bigger with eternal values – where we have come from and what we are about – that He is with us to the end of time; Developing skills: evangelism, invitation, welcome, inclusion and integration; Growing welcome teams and discerning, supporting and deploying new-comers and existing members’ talents.
• Imaginative outreach into local communities: a purposeful community.
“The heartbeat of the community” – community audit, getting to know neighbours, using all aspects of creativity in the community; pilgrimage and sacred buildings.
• Children and young people: a nurturing community.
Exploring new ways of working with children and young people – “Godly play, Messy Church events” – events other then weekly Sunday Schools – joining forces with others for big events, especially when numbers are low.
It will be seen that these descriptions are not exhaustive and are liable to overlap, so that any particular church activity can be seen in terms of more than one strand. Churches are however invited to address one strand as the focus of their growth effort rather than to embrace all (and develop or achieve none).
While this process is mandated by the Bishop, I must stress that the conduct and outcomes of the process are wholly within the control and ownership of each parish. The important thing is that we should discern together where the Lord is leading us – and then be ready to follow Him. That is what discipleship is about.