Francis Brienen gave her presentation to March 2014 Synod from this script:
She began by sharing the story of how she came to be part of the URC.
“I always wanted to be in mission:
As a child I heard wonderful stories at school about mission in Africa,
and that’s where I wanted to go.
But I ended up in Birmingham, in TIM 86-85.
I went to this wonderful church,
a URC that hugely impressed me:
It was about justice, about the community, ecumenical and free in worship – the pianist played the theme of Ghostbusters before the service!
This was a church that understood these words:
“The church is called and privileged to participate in God’s mission and to announce the good news that God is a God-for-people”. Bosch, D.J. (1991), Transforming Mission.
It was a church that was about Jesus: Expressing his life in their life, their worship, their work and their fellowship. That impressed me about the URC.”
For the last 20 years at least, mission has been much talked about in the URC:
The “Growing Up” report meant a turn to mission, focussing in faithful participation in God’s mission, rather than on the future of the URC as a church. There was a rediscovery that the church is mission-shaped.
This found further expression in what followed: “Catch the Vision”, which in many ways was about re-structuring and budget-cutting, but also left us with this excellent strap-line: We are called to be….“God’s people, transformed by the gospel, making a difference for Christ’s sake”
If your church does not have a mission statement I reckon this is a good place to start.
And now we have Vision2020.
It is a plan for growth.
Growth in faithfulness, but also in numbers:
It grows out of the conviction that a church defined by mission ought to long to increase its shared fellowship in Christ: Growth of communities of faith that are centres of worship and service, places where the reign of God is made visible.
Vision 2020 is based on three principles…
1. Mission is God’s
and comprises many things:
justice, healing, reconciliation, forgiveness, peace…
Mission is the reason why the church exists.
Brunner: the church exists by mission as fire exists by burning.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer: “The church is her true self only when she exists for humanity…She must tell men/women, whatever their calling, what it means to live in Christ, to exist for others.”
This means we do not exist for ourselves, as the quote here suggests. We are the only club that does not exist for the benefit of its members.
2. Mission is Local
The local congregation is the place where mission happens, the locus for mission. And many churches are already very involved: community activities, links with partner churches, Commitment for Life, campaigns for justice, healing, work with asylum seekers, prayer, Fairtrade, CYP, FX, volunteering.
Vision2020 builds on that.
It also builds on the challenges churches face.
When we asked them they identified three things (in a survey in 2007):
- reading the signs of the times,
- rediscovering our spiritual resources
- and sharing our faith story.
3. Mission is contextual.
V2020 also recognises that one size does not fit all.
And that goes two ways: what we offer others
does not suit everyone
and where we are differs from place to place,
so our mission priorities will differ from place to place.
What is a priority for a church in rural mid-Wales
may not be a priority for a church in the centre of Newcastle.
Vision2020 recognises that.
So what is it all about?
Of course you know,
you have engaged with it for some years now,
but let me remind you anyway
Vision2020 is a framework, a plan,
but first of all it is a tool.
It offers ten priorities for the denomination,
that say something about
who we believe God calls us to be.
Many congregations now use these priorities as a tool to identify their own priorities for their own place.
In slightly different language than you may have seen them before, the priorities are on the slide.
Take a little time and read through each one.
Which one would be a priority for you?
- 1. Rooted in spirituality and prayer
- 2. Strong in our identity as a church in mission
- 3. Ecumenical in our outlook and relations
- 4. Engaged in communities and neighbourhoods
- 5. Welcoming and embracing all
- 6. Sharing the gospel with family, friends and strangers
- 7. Growing in faith, relationships and people
- 8. Active in God’s global mission
- 9. Committed to working for justice and peace
- 10. Caring for creation
One church that wanted to be more intentional about its mission is Burton in Dorset. This is a small church. But it is growing from 18 members to 28.
Remember: A small church is not a failed/failing large church; a mandarin is not a failed orange!
Using time to prepare themselves with prayer and Bible Study and using priorities such as the five marks of mission and vision2020 they developed their own vision for mission and the actions to go with it.
- Lunch club for the over 50s;
- regular coffee morning growing in numbers;
- bible study group of 13 regular attendees;
- church meeting attended by 20-25 members
- Messy church;
- a thriving Girls Brigade of nearly 40
- A busy parent and toddler group;
- annual children’s summer holiday club mission;
- A partner church in Sri Lanka they support in their work with orphaned children and families in need.
But vision2020 is not only about churches choosing their priorities.
The second part is then to make a mission plan, as we saw with Burton.
Some will do that through their Local Ministry and Mission Review.
But the key is then to share it with the Synod, so that Synod can support churches in their mission and focus resources and training where it is most needed. East Midlands has a Synod fund for this, as do many others. Synods in turn share their key priorities with the denomination through Church House. And in the same way, Church House can tailor its resources and training to support them.
In this way vision2020 is beginning to act as a framework
Synods can use V2020 in a similar way.
Mersey Synod asked all its churches to identify three key areas of mission in their church life, drawn from the vision2020 priorities, that they would want to focus on for the next three years.
The three most often identified were then approved as the three Synod priorities:
Spirituality and prayer
Hospitality and diversity
In the following years training opportunities and resources were made available to support local churches in this. e.g. Back To Church Sunday was promoted as an expression of all three priorities. A Pioneer minister was appointed to develop Messy Church and other fresh expressions in a particular community
A framework, umbrella, mesh, glue?
A way by which we all share
in the life and mission of the URC at all levels.
It says something about us and what we believe:
We are here,
we believe there is a purpose for us,
and we have a sense of identity,
one forged in mission.
We are on a journey together,
working jointly to be a church
that will be both fruitful and faithful
and a true expression of the life of Christ
in every place.