A Yearning for and Renewed Commitment to Mission by Missouri Episcopalians

Saint Louis, MO (PRWEB) November 25, 2009

In his address to the 170th yearly meeting of the Diocese of Missouri, the Rt. Rev. George Wayne Smith detailed the series of conversations held this past year, with clergy and with laity. Meeting twenty at a time, each conversation over a shared meal and with a scribe to record the exchange, these were times to share the dreams and possibilities for the diocesan community. The three topics of deeper spirituality and formation, yearning for authentic community, and engagement in mission kept being voiced. Bishop Smith said, “Many of you have told me about your dreams for this Church, and it is precisely where the seeds lie for the very life that will sustain us. More. Community. Mission.”

“The work of mission becomes all the more crucial for a Church like the Episcopal Church, which continues its numerical decline,” reported Smith. Over the last decade the Episcopal Church has lost 16% in Sunday worshipers. In the one year from 2007-8 average Sunday attendance declined 3.1% among domestic dioceses. In that same one-year period the Diocese of Missouri showed a .4% increase in Sunday worship, which continues the same pattern of radical stability this Diocese has seen for the past decade.

“For a Church in decline mission is not a option. It becomes all the more important to know that the heartbeat of the Episcopal Church is ‘mission, mission, mission,’ to use the Presiding Bishop’s metaphor,” continued Smith. The temptation is to turn inward, but it is in the counter-intuitive turning outward through mission where Christians find life. “It is where we have always found life,” said Smith, “Mission is life-giving. Mission is our joy and our duty.”

The Rev. Dr. Dwight Zscheile, assistant professor at Luther Seminary, delivered the keynote on topics of mission and radical hospitality and included stories from the parish he serves as associate, St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in St. Paul, MN. “I recall one exchange between an American born man and a Kenyan about how disconnected and fragmented life is here, ” Zscheile said, “The church was seen as the one communal space in which significant ties of belonging and relationship could be developed across lines of social class and culture. What would it mean for our churches to be the villages in that African proverb? That means that church is a public space—not a voluntary society of individuals who associate to meet their private spiritual needs, but a truly public space belonging to God and open to the stranger.”

“We are trying to rediscover Christian identity in a post-Christian society. That is our challenge. I suspect many of our institutional structures may not make it intact into the future. The corporate, bureaucratic forms of denominational life that we’ve inherited from the mid-20th century must be transformed for a post-Christendom, network age,” continued Zscheile. “But that isn’t the real issue. The real issue is for us to relearn what it means to be the church as the people of God sent in mission wherever we are.”

This year’s annual convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri was held November 20-21, 2009 in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. Order of Business included the receiving of Church of the Transfiguration from mission to parish status, the welcoming of new church plant Columbia Hope, legislation and passing the diocesan budget for 2010. Multimedia vignette celebrating the work of diocesan Youth Ministry, the diocesan Commission on Dismantling Racism, Waters of Hope, the bicycle ride around Missouri to raise awareness and funds for clean water project in the Sudan, and the newly received parish and host parish, Transfiguration and Christ Church Cape Girardeau, respectively.

Nine missioners were commissioned; they left the day after convention for a two week trip to the Diocese of Lui in southern Sudan. The companion relationship sponsors missioners traveling to Lui and supports students from Lui coming to Missouri to study at Eden Seminary in St. Louis, in addition to infrastructure projects including deep water wells, a grinding mill, current medical texts and hospital supplies, and workshops on topics chosen by Lui diocese. This trip includes workshops on ministry led by Bishop Smith and the Rev. Dan Handschy, office management, adult literacy, agriculture, public health, and a very special art project shared between the children of Lui and Missouri facilitated by the Rev. Anne Kelsey.

Complete text of the Rt. Rev. George Wayne Smith’s address:

http://www.diocesemo.org/news/2009/11/20/bishops-address-to-convention/

Complete text of the Rev. Dr. Dwight Zscheile Keynote:

http://www.diocesemo.org/news/2009/11/24/zscheile-convention-keynote/

More information about the children’s art project with the Diocese of Lui, Sudan

http://www.diocesemo.org/news/2009/08/12/lui/

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