FIT FOR MISSION (Dressed for action)

Isaiah: 1.1, 10–20

Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16

Luke 11: 12.32–40

‘Be dressed for action in and have your lamps lit, be like those who are waiting for their master to return.’

firefighter-920032_960_720

If I put this helmet on – and the rest of the uniform, you would know that I was ready for action. Several of my friends are firefighters, and in my younger days I used to train with them in the gym. It was important for them to keep fit and active. There were also training sessions especially on the drill towers (I am very adept at finding the drill towers when I enter a new town!) I was allowed to take part in a search and rescue mission with them (it was before health and safety was as strict as it is now). There was a training building designed into a house and, although it wasn’t set on fire, it was heated to high temperatures. The idea was to go into this simulated situation and find the bodies. We had to were full protective clothing, including breathing apparatus.

‘Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit, be like those who are waiting for their master to return.’

Bicyclehelmet_da_060713If you saw me wearing this helmet you would know I was dressed for action, ready to ride my bike. You might not see much action but I would be ready and, hopefully, prepared for the forth coming ride.

‘Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit, be like those who are waiting for their master to return.’

olympicsThis weekend saw the start of the Rio Olympics. Years of training have taken place for athletics to have reached peak levels of fitness for their sport. Over the next few weeks we will see athletes dressed for action, fit for their mission of winning a gold medal in the Olympics.

‘Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit, be like those who are waiting for their master to return.’

Being dressed for action or ‘fit for mission’ is something that the diocese of Manchester has been exploring over the last year or so.

  • How can the church of today become the church of tomorrow?
  • What is our vision?
  • What is our mission?
  • Why, in fact, is it something we need to look at?

Diocesan statistics show that

  • Attendance figures in the last five years have dropped by 15% to 28, 100. What will they be like in the next five years?
  • Around a third of our churches have fewer than 35 weekly attendees
  • In less than 5 years’ time, the number of full time stipendiary clergy available in England will reduce by around 12%.
  • Many of the church buildings were designed for neighbourhoods which have now changed unrecognisably
  • With these statistics how do we engage people and reach the communities surrounding us? How do we make church relevant for the 21st century? How do we broaden our appeal without diluting our message? How are we ‘dressed for action?

You may have noticed through the Crux, diocesan website and church magazine that there have been a number of archdeaconry roadshows. These roadshows have been the opportunity to explore some of these issues and for Bishop David to outline the diocesan vision for the church in Manchester. You can download the podcast from the diocesan website.

The values at the heart of the Christian message remain the same – faith, hope and love, and they are as relevant now as they ever have been.

So what is the diocesan vision for the church?

It is to be a ‘worshipping, growing and transforming Christian presence at the heart of every community’ with faith, hope and love are at the heart of all we do.

In bringing that about there are three areas:-

  • Growing
  • Nurturing
  • Serving.

In terms of growing it means growing new disciples in a missionary church, growing communities which are younger, more diverse, active and spiritually engaged.

In terms of nurturing it means increasing vocations – both ordained and lay, recognising and developing skills and talents others, nurturing new and existing disciples and increasing financial giving. It is about nurturing our children, our schools, our people – helping them to discover to God given talents that they have and growing into the stature of God wants us to have, and to be used in God’s service.

In terms of serving it means being present for all, speaking and acting prophetically for justice, giving pastoral support, especially to the vulnerable, the deprived and the excluded. In other words caring for the world in which we live. In the words Bishop William Temple, “The Church is the only organisation that does not exist for itself, but for those who live outside of it.”

  • Growing
  • Nurturing
  • Serving

Each of you should have copy of the booklet that the diocese have produced – ‘How can we ensure that our message is as relevant today as it’s ever been’ and the leaflet ‘Mission Action Planning today’ which explain more fully the diocesan ‘fit for mission’ strategy.

So where does St. Margaret’s Church fit into this?

How can we be fit for mission?

How can we ‘dressed for action’?

How can we as a church be a ‘worshipping, growing and transforming Christian presence at the heart of our community in Prestwich?’

All churches are being asked to develop a mission action plan.

This, first of all, reviews our church and community, our sense of vision and values. What is it that is at the heart of what we do? What is it we do well? What do we want to develop further? What do we want to see happening in our church?

Secondly we prioritise what we feel God is wanting us to do here at St. Margaret’s.

Thirdly, we plan the best way to achieve this and finally we do it.

The PCC, the Way Ahead Group and the Lent course have started this process and over the next few months we will be exploring what this means as a congregation.

We have started looking at things in a slightly different way. As you know, we have trialled Messy Church for four months at St. George’s. Many of you donated craft items for this. We started with only three children and three adults. Over the trial period we had 30 adults and children one month, 25 another. The PCC has decided that we will continue with this as a means of mission.

Over the last couple of weeks we have had slightly different sermons. With Andrew, as the voice of God, we explored the meaning of the Lord’s Prayer and   last week we had St. Margaret’s Desert island Discs meets the rich fool.

Last week was Staycation Week. As you know, we had a range of outings/activities throughout the week. 167 people came ‘on holiday with us’. Some came for a day, others for the whole week. 78 different people participated – both from our own church and other churches both in our deanery and other parts of the diocese. It was a week of fun, faith, fellowship and …food. It was also a week of mission. It was a week of nurture as we built up relationships and fellowship with each other. It was a week of service, especially in terms of the £420 raised by the MU afternoon tea for MU charities. Although our church may not have grown in terms of numbers it certainly was a time of witness as many of you spoke to friends and families about what we were doing.

As we develop our mission action plan together, we build on the many good things that have made our church what it is and through prayer, faith (based on our Hebrews 11 reading) and action we become a missional church where we are fit for mission,

‘dressed for action and have our lamps lit, and are like those who are waiting for their master to return.’

Amen.

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