When I was asked to be part of a consultation team for World Mission in the PC(USA) I didn’t know what to expect.
The Synod of the Covenant sent me as part of the US Northeast Consultation. It was a time to focus on the strategy and communication patterns we use in World Mission, how we organize mission, and how we can be more effective at connecting into the Holy Spirit’s work.
In addition to the radical hospitality of the Stony Point Center where it was held in New York (which I talked about in yesterday’s reflection), I also engaged with so many people in our denomination who love World Mission too, and see the powerful connection we can have with the Spirit if we can deeply relate to one another around the world.
It was an extraordinary time of connection.
The first connection was with those who often work behind the scenes and get little of the credit. They are those huge hearts and hard workers for World Mission at our denominational headquarters in Louisville. They resource and provide their expertise to the mission co-workers around the globe and to those of us in PCUSA congregations and mid-councils. People like Jieun Han and Tamron Keith are the life-blood of our national office, particularly for World Mission, providing essential links of communication and HR support.
Take Tamron, for instance, (pictured above to the right) who as Associate Director for World Mission works in operations management and budget development. His kind of operational leadership is essential, for instance with international properties and assisting in navigating international law and equipping mission co-workers in various countries with the resources they need. He also oversees the Young Adult Volunteer program, which plants and cultivates seeds in young hearts and minds, like Sarah Chancellor-Watson, who many of my readers know not as a former YAV to Peru, but as what she did after that experience – come to First Pres in Oklahoma City as our Dir of Children and Youth Activities. Sarah is now the Associate Pastor of St. Charles Avenue Presbyterian Church in New Orleans. The Young Adult Program nurtures leaders.
Another essential piece of our Mission together is Jieun, without whom our event would not have happened. She draws hearts and minds together. Thank you Jieun for drawing me in! (Top picture, front, right. Second pic, right)
Our time together was an opportunity to listen deeply to one another. We came to understand the continued need for solidarity and mutuality as we move forward together in Mission, and what deep partnerships will look like in 2020 and beyond.
In many respects I came to understand our need to practice boldness in this fearful world of ours. I also came to see how we often are operating from FEAR – in our churches and in our US context. It has become our model: fear of loss of members, fear of diminished resources, whatever.
So often we have embraced and rely on our culture in the US, which has led to this fear, in a way that other Christians in other countries often have not. We as Christians say we need to be countercultural standing against powers and principalities like Paul calls us to, but I wonder when we are going to get around to it. Rick Ufford-Chase summed it up well when he addressed our fears in the context of last week saying “We are gonna have to move to the edge of Empire and it’s gonna hurt.”
We spent many days together in prayer, calling on the Spirit to lead us in new ways to engage our communities as they seek to become Matthew 25 churches, reaching out to the poor, the lonely, the lost, and struggling against racism, poverty, and injustice of all kinds.
I love our church. I see so many resources – so many possibilities – so much reason to hope for a better future. And together with our mission partners churches around the world, I believe we can TOGETHER build a better future.
Mission is finding out where the Holy Spirit is at work, and joining in. There are abundant opportunities to join with the Holy Spirit in the PC(USA) and in 2019.
Finally, I learned a new and better translation of 1 Cor. 3:9. “We are co-laborers with God’s synergy, building up the economy of God.” From Greek straight to Spanish, this really does hit at the heart of what Paul was talking about, and as it relates to our mission engagement.
Only when we are co-laborers with God and with one another can we plug into the only economy we truly need: God’s.
May your Holy Week be a profound week of plugging into the love story of God for you. And may the power and presence of the Holy Spirit in this week lead us to new ways to co-labor with God, and together build up God’s great kingdom of love and light.