The New Northeast

tracking the Spirit in the Episcopal Diocese of Maine

Two posts worth a look

Take a look at this blog post from July by a priest in the Diocese of Indianapolis, the Rev. Whitney Rice, published on her blog “Roof Crashers & Hem Grabbers.”

“The Church is dying, and it’s the best thing that ever happened to us”

She writes,

“Our paradigm of success being the route to God’s favor has resulted in a bloated, rich, powerful Christianity that has become dogmatic and spiritually stunted.”

I think Jesus is calling us to something quite different.”

and this:

“…there are two distinct options here.

“There is death that ends in death, as in, end of story, here lies the Episcopal Church, crumbled to dust and irrelevance.

“And then there is death that leads to resurrection.

“I know which I’d rather be a part of.

“The death that leads to resurrection is a death freely entered into, an embrace of the Cross that is undergirded by the knowledge that God will call us into and through this death into new life.

“The point of openly acknowledging the decline and death of the church is not to lock the doors after the service today never to open them again.

“The point is not to give ourselves an excuse for not doing the hard work of Christian community.

“The point of embracing the death of the church is the same as it is for us as individuals—Jesus’ death on the Cross was above all the source of our liberation.

“The death of the church is our great liberation from all the power and wealth that have so often led us astray.”

The Rev. Jesse Zink, an Episcopal priest who is working on his doctorate at the University of Cambridge, recently published a post on his blog, www.jessezink.com that was picked up by the Episcopal Church Foundation’s Vital Practices blog, “Can a Starbuck barista find a place in the Episcopal Church.”

He wonders at the current emphasis in Episcopal circles on joining God’s mission and who among us has the time to “do mission.” He writes,

“In my experience of the Episcopal Church, Episcopalians are people who come from an action-oriented stratum of society that is used to exercising its own agency. When we hear calls to “mend the world,” we might think it’s a tall order but we might also think it’s not unreasonable to start making plans.

“All of this came to mind while reading a lengthy investigation in the New York Times recently about modern labour practices. The article focused on a young, single-mother who has no certainty in her work schedule from Starbucks and so ends up living a life of constant chaos, torn between child care, work, transit between the two, and with barely any time for any of her major life goals, like education or a driver’s license.

“The article doesn’t say but I’d guess that this young woman is not a member of the Episcopal church. She may not be a member of any church, in fact. But let’s imagine she walks into her local Episcopal church on a Sunday morning and hears a sermon exhorting her to join in the mission of God, to get out there and build the kingdom, to do, to labour, to work. It’s not unreasonable to think that her response might be, “I can barely keep my head above water as it is. Why would I want to join a church that tells me I need to do more work?”

What do you think about these posts? Let us know in the comments.

4 Comments

4 responses to “Two posts worth a look”

  1. Geof Smith says:

    I can’t help but wonder after reading Jesse Zink’s comments about his wonder at our focus on “doing mission” if both he and often we who call for a greater focus on mission haven’t conflated mission with charity?

    How many times do we get up and call for volunteers for the soup kitchen, vacation Bible school, Habitat project , pantry or other work “mission work”? And then how many times do we talk about what we do in our occupation, the grocery store, or the classroom as mission work? Please don’t get me wrong, Christian charity is evidenced by all of these works and they are vital symbols of our church and outreach to the communities we live in, but the mission of the church is the mission of Christ, and with a lot of work by others, the marks of this being done have been presented as:

    ~ Proclaiming the Good News of the Kingdom
    ~ Teaching, baptizing and nurturing new believers
    ~ Responding to human need by loving service
    ~ Seeking to transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and to pursue peace and reconciliation
    ~ Striving to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth

    I would suggest that each and every one of these is something best done everywhere we are 24/7, and not something that necessarily needs to be added on.

    In a spirit of appreciative inquiry and rejoicing in a grateful God, I wonder if that harried barista might be more inclined to stick around if we strengthened her view that the gifts she brings to that latte drinker who was short a dime, sipping a Fair Trade product, are a vital part of Christ’s mission too?

  2. Whitney Rice says:

    Thanks for sharing my post. I’m so interested in hearing other perspectives on where the Church is going next!

  3. Wayne Rollins says:

    Every Christian, and every parish, needs to regularly examine those aspects of life that are nurturing to the self, and to others inside and outside the parish community. Phyllis Tickle uses the image of a yard sale. Christ invites the church to embrace the cross of scrutiny and change. Listen to the stories of those on both sides of our walls. The Starbucks employee may need to learn the joy found as she comes for refreshment for her soul, and in the meantime discover manna appears for her as she is embraced by the community. Too often we invite newcomers to help on a project before we learn their names, their hopes and fears, and allow time for that personal sense of purpose to find a place in God’s mission. As to where any particular parish is going, our task is to ensure to the best of our ability that it is going toward God. When that is true, lots of wonderful stuff happens along the way.

  4. Sheila Seekins says:

    Thank you for the post about God’s mission. I think it essential to discern gifts, for some people and some communities, at some times in their lives, the call is to receive bread, nurturing, embracing in love and blessing, in order to be sent out to live with their challenges with a knowledge of love and community at their back. At other times and places and people, the call is to give the bread already received, to nurture with the nurturing already received, to love with the Love already received in abundance. Blessed indeed are the communities that are able to do both the challenging to “do more” where appropriate, and to simply hold in abundant blessing of joy and love when that is needed. Blessed also the communities who discern their call to one or the other and live into this discerned call with all their love and abundance of grace.

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