I reminded us in my article last month that the vision of the Anglican community in Southern Africa is to be “Anchored in the love of Christ, Committed to God's Mission, Transformed by the Holy Spirit.” The full vision, mission and priority statements can be found at http://bit.ly/sI5Mrw , and I do recommend you take time to read them. Bishop Jo, at our recent Synod, indicated that in 2012 there will be a process of revisiting our Diocesan statements in order to align them with the Provincial commitment, as well as to the context in which our Diocese finds itself, namely that we now have a rector in every parish in the Diocese, allowing every parish to become increasingly a centre of spirituality, mission and ministry.
Diocesan Theme 2011-2014
The Diocese meets for Synod every three years, and each time sets a theme for the three years to follow. The theme is designed to help us reach aspects of our Diocesan Vision and Mission, and to give us a focus for development and growth between Synod meetings. Synod 2011 accepted the theme:
Renewed and empowered through Baptism to be “servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God” (1 Corinthians 4:1)
I believe this theme will usefully help us redefine the focus of our Diocesan Vision and Mission as we seek to explore, in terms of the present Diocesan Mission statement, what it truly means for Parishes to be forming centres of spirituality, mission and ministry. In addressing this theme in his Charge to Synod, Bishop Jo reflects that we need to move our focus from the Church as a building to the Church as community. We need to spend time teaching and reflecting on what it means to be Christian Community, on what it means to be servants and stewards in the realm and domain of God.
One of the keys to building community that Bishop Jo points to in his Charge is the importance of establishing small faith communities in people’s homes. So much of community in the Anglican environment is established around our building and our Sunday worship, and so there is a huge challenge here. It has been touching in recent weeks to experience how the Corpus Christi Family Cross is taking the focus of community into our homes – drawing together the family, drawing in friends – as we meet to pray. It has been encouraging to experience something of the supportive and faith-filled friendships that uphold many of our parish families.
Our responsibility, however, is not just to ourselves, and not just to building our own community; we have a responsibility to the wider community of humanity and creation. The faith community forms our foundation, but we are called to build beyond our faith boundaries. Bishop Jo reminds us of this in his Charge when he says, “we must, as a matter of our confession, live a life reflecting God’s love which demands unity and requires justice for all humanity.” A strong aspect of this journey is being willing to reach beyond our own boundaries and to join hands with people of other denominational, and even religious, outlook. Unity can never exist if we are unwilling to embrace diversity. We also need to embrace our struggles, suffering and hurt, the fragmentation of human life and community. We are reliably informed that by the time you read this the global human population will have reached seven billion. What is the implication of such numbers for survival? What is the implication for our world? What does it mean for our faith?
The challenge is to live differently and meaningfully, to build community that rejects isolation and breeds wholeness, creating a secure future for our world. Bishop Jo’s challenge to us in this regard is that, “Our work for the kingdom of God must create an environment that has the character of heaven on earth.”