[This is a version the sermon Fr. Chris delivered on Sunday 10th September 2017, slightly amended by Fr. Chris for this website and our newsletter.}
In his Letter to the Romans (Romans 13: 8-end), our New Testament reading on September 10th, Paul talks a great deal about looking to the future. Paul says that churches must operate as communities who see themselves living in ‘in-between times’, that is, in time which is between the resurrection of the past and the future fulfilment of all things. He says that church communities are called to live in the present world, but as citizens of a future one. Paul’s idea of planning for the future is a sound basis for taking Mission Action Planning seriously.
Those of you who are regular visitors to this website may have already read something about the process of Mission Action Planning that every parish in the diocese is expected to engage in. In a nutshell, a MAP is a plan for what we intend to do and achieve at St. Cross going forward over the next 3 years. The plan itself is a series of activities, which will enable us to achieve whatever goals we set out to achieve over the next two to three years.
The vicar cannot go away and write a plan for the church. And nor can the PCC. A MAP must be the end product of as broad a consultation process as possible.
The more people that are involved,
The more voices that have been heard
There are four distinct phases to the MAPlanning process. There is the PRELIMINARY STAGE: What we might call, DEALING WITH THE PROSPECT OF CHANGE. During this phase, we will start thinking and talking about what being more open to change might mean for our church life. Change is not always easy and it is therefore important to give space to talk though anxieties and concerns any we might have at facing the prospect of change.
There is then the REVIEW phase. During this phase, we will carry out several activities to gain a better understanding of the area that our church is serving. This will involve doing all sorts of things: Getting out into the parish and talking to people; identifying key agencies in the parish where collaboration and the possibility of growing mission to the wider community might be possible; inviting outsiders in to attend our church and give us honest feedback; looking at contextual data about our parish. Understanding the area our church is serving will allow us to tailor our outreach to the needs and opportunities of our parish.
Once we’ve done this we will be in a better position to CREATE A VISION for where we discern God wants us to be in the future. Out of this will come our three year PLAN which we will carry out and review.
In his letter, Paul also talks about putting on the full armour of Jesus Christ in order to become more Christ-like. This is sound advice. How might we become more Christ-like? What would being more Christ-like actually look like or involve for this church? These are big questions for us as individuals and for us as a church but these are the questions that should be at the heart of our Mission Action Planning process.
Over the next few weeks there will be many opportunities for you to get involved and have your say.
You will have the opportunity to comment on the worship and sacramental life of the church. You will be invited to attend workshops which will look at every aspect of church life: how we engage with and apply scripture; what we do to nurture discipleship and vocation; how we respond to human need; whether we do enough to attract and include newcomers; what we’re doing for our children and young people. I cannot stress enough how important it is that you take these opportunities.
Our first MAP Meeting will be held in Church at 2pm on Saturday 14th October- all are welcome and we ask all who possibly can to attend so you can be involved in this process from the very beginning!
This is your church. And as I’ve said already decisions and change must come out of shared consultation.
A church that is willing to adapt and change and to give different things a go is more likely to be a growing church
A church that understands its context, actively engages with it and with those who might not currently go to church is more likely to be a growing church
A church that has a clear vision for where God wants them to be in the future is more likely to get there
A church which has a plan of activities, based on a good knowledge of its context and a clear vision is more likely to achieve its goals and realize its vision