As many of us head home from The International Symposium on Ministry Development in San Antonio, we are reflecting on what a true privilege it was to be gathered as a group. Thank you to all participants for making this such a special experience!
Stay tuned for more reflections, photos and resources coming out of this symposium in the coming days and weeks.
Photo: Katie Forsyth
“Collaborative ministry is I suppose thinking that the third millennium of the church needs to look more like the first millennium than the second ..so my slogan is stop coming to church, and become the church.” An interview with the Rev. Robin Greenwood during the 2015 International Ministry Symposium.
“Whatever it is that God has given you a passion for, then gather other people around you with that same passion, and form what we call a missional group.” Jerry Marshall of the International Rural Church Association shares his story of collaborative ministry during the 2015 International Ministry Symposium.
“What if a community of people could come together with the sole purpose of talking about issues of life and death, of faith and doubt? To talk about theological issues, not as part of the larger church’s program, but as our reason for being. That we would be there intentionally, but not as a bricks and mortar church … we would be church in a different form.” Carol Bell took a break from the 2015 International Ministry Symposium to tell us about collaborative ministry happening in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
I believe in Church. Not just that it exists, but that it is a tool for God to use to change our world. I believe that Church will survive the present decline in our numbers, that Church will survive in new and exciting ways. The Church that survives, I believe, will be collaborative, counter-cultural, and creative.
And gathering at the International Symposium for Ministry Development I get to hear stories of how teams, churches, dioceses, and all sorts of gatherings of people have created Church in amazing new ways. Because we have gathered folk from New Zealand, Canada, The United States, England, Scotland, and Australia, the language barrier is tough–words fly by and I have to say wait! Did you say “missing” Church?
No, Messy Church! (http://www.messychurch.org.uk/) Aimed at reaching families with young children Messy Church is a gathering of lots of “extreme” craft activities, followed by worship and then dinner. Prefer something with less clean-up? Germinate.net offers resources, training, and stories about rural Church. You’ll find a variety of alternative Church models under its “Good Practice Stories”, including United Media Church which uses film clips and computer games to reach children on Monday nights, and Breakfast@9 that reaches out to busy families in the mornings.
After Breakfast talk to the Diocese of Toronto (I’m pretty sure they say “Trono”) about how to “Redeem the Commute”, a Church that takes place on an app on your phone as you drive to work. http://www.redeemthecommute.com/about/. Tired of the commute and wishing you could slow down? The slow church movement https://www.facebook.com/SlowChurch is eager to help you with a better pace. Pub Church can help you wind down at the end of the day, but isn’t that new an idea–it even has a wikipedia entry http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pub_church.
Not all the leaders gathered at this conference are emphasizing dramatically new forms of church, but even the ordinary forms have extraordinary components: bible study at a fast food restaurant, street ministry outside the church’s front doors, soup kitchens where the people who are hungry are also the cooks, outreach to people with mental health challenges, and more.
Liz Magill, program coordinator of Faith-Based Leadership at Episcopal Divinity School (EDS), is attending the International Symposium on Ministry Development in San Antonio this week. At the International Symposium on Ministry Development we gathered for Bible study, looking at John’s story of Jesus’ meeting with the woman at the well. (John 4:1-42). Our assignment was to figure out God’s mission in the world. It was tempting to find that God’s mission is to love us all, and to push us to love each other, but the assignment was to return to the text every day for a week, so we began to find more and more complexity in the text, and in its application to out lives. It was helpful to look at Jesus’ interaction with the woman, I’ll call her Alia, and then to look at Alia’s interaction with her town. Jesus starts with boundary crossing–speaking to a woman, to a foreigner, to a random stranger. We notice also the vulnerability of being alone and asking for her help. He offers her the gift of living water, the gift of eternal life, but her good news to the community is much more basic than that. “He told me everything I had ever done.” Notice how little theological discussion we need to understand that–he knows me. This was amazing good news to Alia, and honestly to each of us in our small group, and she was moved to share it with the town. Our guiding question asked us to consider what she was doing as evangelism, which was interesting since her style was to tell a personal story followed by an innocent question (could he be the messiah?) and many believed. John’s goal is certainly to affirm that JC is the messiah, and to show that people believed in him. God’s mission is less straightforward. We would be wise to notice that the people of Samaria are already connected to God in some way, for they worship on this mountain where Jacob worshipped. Likewise, God is active in the world today quite separate from the work of the church. Also, what people need from God can be quite different. Jesus offered Alia living water, but what she needed most was to be known. Jesus boundary crossing was essential for Alia to hear the good news, but some of those in Samaria needed to hear from him, not from her. I think we can trust that God’s mission adapts to the context of the people’s needs. The disciples on the other hand can’t seem to adapt to the situation, reacting in amazement that Jesus is talking to the woman without noticing that she has been transformed. It’s hard not to see them as a metaphor for some churches, busy unpacking the groceries while the Holy Spirit is moving in the community outside their doors. I left the weeks worth of bible study as uncertain as ever as to whether I can know what God’s mission is, but certain that I play a variety of roles in supporting that mission, sometimes crossing boundaries and offering living water with Jesus, sometimes being known and sharing the good news with Alia, sometimes attending to the maintenance issues of feeding the people.
“We’ve also been introduced to the whole challenge of being a missional church, which is looking much more outward into the world and the communities around it – so for me the exciting grab of this opportunity is the bringing together of a collaborative ministry model with a missional church calling or imperative. None of us knows what that’s going to look like, because most of the collaborative models really were focused on making the church healthy. I won’t say they were entirely focused inwardly, but much of the emphasis was on creating an effective, vital and viable church, so that its members could minister in the world. And, I see the missional church challenge as moving beyond that. Now we are trying to find ways to take that collaborative model and open it up so that it empowers its members and the church as a whole in its mission in the world.” We sat down with the Rt. Rev. Don Phillips to talk about collaborative ministry and the Symposium – both in 1999 and today.
“This little seed of an idea, which was to develop a service that speaks to inner-city youth became this almost overwhelming ministry … The leadership at Church of the Messiah really understood that who most needed to hear God’s hope were the youth in the city of Detroit. They believe in these kids, they believe in telling them that they matter, that God loves them, that they have value, and that there’s no reason that they shouldn’t be upheld as beloved children of God. And they empower them, they give them skills, they involve them in the congregation and the worship of the congregation, and everything they do.” Michelle Meech, Ministry Developer for the Episcopal Diocese of Michigan, shares her 4-Minute Ministry story.
“I am the first woman to …” So many women pioneers from around the world are present here at #MinistryDev15 It is truly inspiring to be among them, and we thank them for their hard work in breaking barriers. Thanks to Katie Forsyth for creating this wonderful video!
We gathered together for the first time with dinner, followed by worship. We then broke into groups to answer the question: “What are some things that would be helpful for me to hear from you about you and your context, so that we can work together well over these next days?”
Jenny Dawson of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa (New Zealand and Polynesia) did a beautiful job of starting things off by offering her context. Listen to her statement below: