On Thursday September 26th and Friday September 27th, the Diocese of Eastern Newfoundland and Labrador held a special Mission Conference at the Sheraton Hotel in St. John’s. The conference was organized by Archdeacon Greg Mercer with the assistance of the Mission Deans of the diocese. Two guest speakers, Dr. Alan Roxburgh and the Rev’d Dr. Jay Koyle, addressed the assembled group of mission representatives from across the diocese, and also held interactive sessions to answer specific questions relating to mission within parishes.
Dr. Roxurgh spoke of how mission is discerning what God is doing ahead of us. He spoke on the importance of moving beyond the walls and boundaries of our parish buildings, of taking ourselves out into the local communities, and just being with the people who we find there. Mission is not about coming up with new programs in an attempt to fill the needs of the rest of the population, but is rather to concern itself with going out into the community to be with those who are not a part of the parish, and to look for no return on that investment. Engage in this mission, and see where God will take us.
Dr. Koyle spoke of how the way that we look at things determines what we will see and how we need to let the future lead us just as much as we do the past. As Christians, we are shaped by what we will become—by where the Holy Spirit is leading, and by God’s promised tomorrow. He asked if we felt that we are living in a time of crisis for the church, which it is clear that we are. However, it was suugested that this is not a crisis of membership, but rather one of realising who needs to be relevant to whom. As the church, we no longer have a monopoly on religion, and so we must find our market niche. The problem that we have is not that the gospel has become irrelavant to society, but that the kingdom of God has become irrelevant to the church. Again, it is not about trying to attract people to us—not about creating programs and adapting to their needs—but about making ourselves more attractive people by how we live our lives. There are plenty of people of love in the world, and our job is to find them. Congregation is not a problem to be solved, but is a blessing to be released.
Between sessions, Dr. Rick Singleton and Dr. Carmel Doyle (both of Queen’s College) led a time of silence and reflection so that those present could listen to where the Holy Spirit is leading the church.