The New Northeast

tracking the Spirit in the Episcopal Diocese of Maine

Discerning next steps: International Mission Trips for Maine Youth

by the Rev. Ralph Moore, Rockland

Photo 3_0As our congregations try to keep up with the rapidly widening global awareness of our society, the concept of “mission” poses as one of our most exciting challenges. A former era’s understanding of mission is difficult to overcome. We sing hymns and sometimes interpret scriptures in a way that easily reinforces a traditional kind of “us” and “them” duality–that is, we who have much are called to help those who have little.

While there is some factual truth in such contrasts between situations among people living in poverty and those living with material advantage, a more profound reality still yearns to be discovered: the common humanity shared by all, within which all participants are equally learners and servants committed to a single faithfulness to truth and love.

One new mission resource calls this goal “transformational,” for “we need each other to fully comprehend God.” Therefore, just as the word “mission” is rooted in the ancient Latin notion of “sending” (like a missile), we are increasingly aware that each of us is called to be “sent” from where we are across many different boundaries where we are needed not as outside experts but as inside companions.

In this sense, right here in a small town in Maine the boundary to cross may be the threshold of a neighbor’s home wherein there may be a world as different from our own as there might be in a rural village in Latin America. As we ponder what it is to be “mission” for faithful Christians that enjoy the abundance of life in the United States, the possibilities are as numerous as they are scintillating.

On the evening of May 1 a significant and inspiring conversation about these challenges took place in our diocese.

Fourteen women and men, youth and older persons, engaged in a discernment meeting about international mission for teens. Many of us had been involved in one or more missions in the village of Jalonga, Dominican Republic, a relationship that has been nurtured for more than a decade. Others had served in mission in Haiti, Vietnam, India, Nicaragua, Costa Rica or Myanmar. The meeting quickly moved into reflections on past experiences in Jalonga and then into a process of discernment about the prospect of another group to be formed now to serve in Jalonga in 2015.

This opened up such questions as whether opportunities different from Jalonga ought to be considered in the more distant future. I feel that the most critical aspects of a contemporary theology of mission were carefully considered in the flow of this dialogue. Five of us had not been part of this program and were invited because we had experience as missionaries abroad. I know that we all felt at home and encouraged by the faithfulness and wisdom that emerged in this gathering.

Discernment it truly was, and I pray that we will all support the efforts of Jane Hartwell and the leadership group as they that continue this process in our diocesan ministry with young people. It is really the same dynamic that is needed to revitalize the service of our congregations in “mission.”

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For more information about the youth international mission trip in 2015, please contact Canon Jane Hartwell at jhartwell@episcopalmaine.org.

 

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