By Bob Hulteen
We work together so that all experience gracious invitation into life-giving Christian community and live in just and healthy neighborhoods.
Yep, if you’ve been to any synod event with Bishop Ann in the last five years, you’ve probably recited the synod’s mission statement. She has been able to drill this aspirational statement into our collective consciousness in a way that really can get us to believe it.
The synod’s staff spent some serious time discussing this mission statement. We challenged ourselves: Is it as concise as it can be? Do we believe what it says? Can we live into the commitment?
The last few weeks I have been wondering about that first question: Do we need all of the words? I’ve wondered if the last phrase – “so that all might live in just and healthy neighborhoods” – isn’t redundant. I mean, if we are inviting people into “life-giving Christian community,” do we need to say the rest of it.
Is it possible to have life-giving Christian community without just and healthy neighborhoods?
IN ADVENT WE practice waiting. It’s a weird sort of waiting; “already, not yet,” I think we call it. “Now” and “then” bleed into each other. They aren’t opposites; the choices are not binary.
Given what we so often experience, it is absolutely absurd to believe that we will have just and healthy neighborhoods. There is no evidence that we can embody that promise, that hope, that longing, that vision.
And yet, our congregations are filled with people who work for just and healthy neighborhoods every day. For some, their employment includes the holy work of filling potholes or cooking meals in shelters or teaching students or offering medical care or planting trees or meeting with their legislators. Each day, filled with the Holy Spirit’s power, these witnesses proclaim the good news of Jesus by finding ways to make life better, or easier, or healthier, or more predicable for vulnerable neighbors, hurting neighbors, frightened neighbors, despairing neighbors.
“Is it possible to have life-giving Christian community without just and healthy neighborhoods?”
Now, I actually don’t want to change the mission statement. (I suspect that at this point in reading the blog, Bishop Ann might be wondering.) But, I hope that we, out of our faith in the Resurrected One, can more and more be challenged to be repairers of the breach, to be co-creators of the future, to be gracious inviters into the community of faithful followers.
Let’s aspire to the mission that is oh so absurd.