28 June 2011

What is "Mission"?

As I prepare for my departure to Hong Kong, I thought I would take a few minutes to reflect on what exactly "mission" is and what that means to me. I invite your comments and reflections, or anything else you might have to say.
When you hear the word, “mission”, what comes to your mind? For many it conjures up images of colonialism, westernization, and converting “pagan” peoples to win souls for Jesus. Some may think of small parishes supported by a diocese. Others, perhaps, hear the Mission: Impossible theme in their heads. There are many associations with the word “mission” and I wanted to take some time before I leave for Hong Kong to talk about The Episcopal Church and Mission, and what that means for every member of every parish in every diocese and province that is part of our church.

The full legal name of the national church corporate body is the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America. It is made up of churches from all over the world. We are not just North American; we include in our provinces Honduras, Taiwan, Colombia, Ecuador, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, the British Virgin Islands and parts of Europe. Missionaries sent from The Episcopal Church since its founding in the 1780s established churches, hospitals, and schools all over the world, many of which are still in operation today. 

“We are all missionaries, or we are nothing,” says the Most Reverend Desmond Tutu. As members of the Church we are all part of God’s mission of reconciliation. I am not going to Hong Kong to become a missionary; I already am one! And so are you. We live out our lives as missionaries by being Christ Incarnate to everyone we meet; by recognizing Christ Incarnate in everyone we meet. This incarnational relationship furthers God’s mission to reconcile us to him, to bring us into relationship with himself and each other. This is the work of the church. We are commissioned in baptism, enabled by the Holy Spirit, and are invited to be not only recipients but also channels of God’s transforming grace. 

The word “mission” also conjures up, at least for me, a sense of being sent out. Indeed, at the end of our worship service we ask God to “send us out to do the work you have given us to do, to love and serve you as faithful witnesses of Christ our Lord.” In The Great Commission, Jesus sends out the disciples: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20). I will be a representative of those who are sending me: St. Paul’s Murfreesboro, the Diocese of Tennessee, and The Episcopal Church; not only these, but as God’s representative of reconciliation to those who need healing, justice, and hope.

17 June 2011

Two Weeks in Toronto

It has been an incredible two weeks here in Toronto! Five of my fellow YASCers from the discernment weekend were present, along with another lovely lady who missed the weekend but is going to El Salvador. Two Canadians with the United Church of Canada are doing an Ecumenical Accompaniment program in Palestine for three months, which has been really fascinating to learn about. There were also a few missionaries going out from the Episcopal Church for longer term placements.

Our time has been spent in fellowship, learning about ourselves and our placements, and getting some idea of what it will be like to immerse ourselves in a new culture for an extended period of time. I have been abroad before, the longest for six weeks, but I still anticipate feeling some culture shock and re-entry shock when I return next year.We have also explored global issues (human displacement, environmental issues, economic issues) and the ways they impact the places and people we go to serve.

One session we had was with a Jesuit who had just finished his dissertation on Matteo Ricci, one of the first missionaries to China. Ricci's theology of friendship and the way he introduced Christianity into Chinese culture (mainly by using Confucianism and aspects of their culture) really spoke to me. He sent me some resources that I am looking forward to getting into when I am not engrossed in other things!

Another day that I really enjoyed here was the day we spent going to a Sikh temple and a Chinese Buddhist temple here in Toronto. Learning about these other traditions and what the people who practice them aspire to really amazed me. The gentleman who led us around to these places summed their main tenets up with: Be Nice. Kindness to others and to ourselves are held in common by many religions.

Spare evenings and a Saturday afternoon have been spent getting around the city of Toronto, and I actually had the opportunity to spend Saturday afternoon at Niagara Falls. It was incredible!! I am so fortunate to have had these experiences here. Currently the city of Toronto is having a Luminato festival, in which musicians from around the world are highlighted and perform evening concerts downtown.  There are also readings by authors and other performances, but since they are during the day we have not been able to attend.

Oh! I also have happy news to report: my ticket for Hong Kong is booked! I will be leaving as planned on July 15th. My apartment is actually on the island of Kowloon, so I am excited about all of the opportunities to explore the area. If you would like to know my address in Hong Kong please drop me a line and I will email it to you. Or, just comment on this post and I will send it to you. I will have four weeks to prepare for departure and say good-bye to the wonderful people and places that have been my home for the last few years.

I invite you to please comment with any thoughts or questions that you may have, and I hope you will keep me in your prayers as I begin this amazing journey.

Grace and Peace!

04 June 2011

Almost There!

Wow!! I am so truly floored by the support and prayerful encouragement that I have received. As of right now I am at $8,181, and I am very confident that I can make up that last bit in time to head to Hong Kong on July 15th. Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone!

Tomorrow I will fly to Toronto to begin at two week orientation at the Canadian Churches' Forum for Global Ministries. I will stay at St. Michael's College (http://stmikes.utoronto.ca) along with other people from all over the United States and Canada who are going on world missions. This will be the first time I have flown internationally by myself, so I am a little nervous! Maybe I will run into some fellow YASCers at the airport ;) I am so looking forward to seeing those friends again!

Please keep me in your prayers as I travel, and pray for a blessed time of learning and growth as I prepare for ministry in Hong Kong. If you have not already, visit Spencer's blog to get an idea of the kind of work I will be doing. http://spencerinhongkong.tumblr.com. Really looking forward to meeting her!!

Grace and Peace,