This article, by Queen’s College student Dale Careen, will appear in the February print issue of Anglican Life.
I am one among the many in our Anglican faith community who is exploring not what Mission is, but how we go about mission. I have come to understand that mission is inherently social justice centred, and evangelization can be expressed in acts of compassion. The command to “love thy neighbour” is a command to engage in good stewardship and equitable distribution of the world’s resources. Mission cannot be separated from social justice, which cannot be separated from God’s message of love. Mission is about positive transformation. Jesus’ life reflects his purpose—transformation. Mission is transformative because we change as people seeking to do God’s work on earth. I have been told by some that we must be careful with doing “social justice” because then we are forgetting the Christian path and we may be teetering on the edge of secularization. I disagree with this. Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ lived and died because he was a social activist. Jesus’ mission was concerned with changing the consciousness of the society as a whole. If we look to the person of Jesus, we can see that mission is not just a part of the church that is done alongside other things, but it is the whole purpose of church. It is how the church lives in relation to society and how it functions internally as well.
Missional work provides opportunities for bringing good news to the world and ways to concretely engage in that process. Engaging in missional work generates tremendous opportunities to create, explore, and transform. While there needs to be clarity around what mission is, it should not be limiting or restrictive. Part of mission work is to be proactive, to look into our communities and see where God is speaking. Our mission as a church is to be present in our communities. Our faith was founded by those who went out among the people and interacted in the communities they found themselves in. This is a powerful tradition that we must continue to practice in order to have healthy ministries and effective missions. The church, its leaders, and those of us who aspire to be her leaders, needs to actively search out opportunities for the church to participate in addressing injustices in our communities. We need to be vocal and active about the lack of affordable housing, the almost non-existence of supportive housing for those of us with complex needs and con-current substance abuse issues, and the ever-increasing problem of food insecurity. These issues are gross injustices on humanity in a country as rich and abundant as ours. We need to use our existing resources wisely. Church properties must be maintained and not allowed to fall into disrepair. Church properties should not be sold, but rather re-purposed. By repurposing our buildings, we can respond to human need by loving service. Within mission there is unlimited space for ministry to be practiced in new and exciting ways right alongside the traditional ways that have endured for centuries. We must always remember that our spiritual path is formed and directed by so much more than our own personal journey. Our journey changes shape by those around us and by the services that we provide to our families and communities. Learning to give of oneself makes a better, stable, loving community for everyone. Engaging in good works locally and globally, done in the name of Jesus Christ, is proclaiming the Gospel. Our Christian proclamation does not always need to use words. We can proclaim a very strong message by living a life centred on caring for the earth and all its inhabitants. Our mission, as instructed by Jesus, is to love God and love our neighbour. Mission is the manifestation of God’s spirit. Mission enables us to know God is present.