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Council for Mission

‘Each of us has a responsibility to pass on our faith to others’

The Very Revd Tim Wright, Chair of the Council for Mission, talks to the Church of Ireland Gazette about the important work of the Council, and how all mission is local, starting in our parish churches.

When was the Council for Mission first established, and what brought about its establishment?

The Council for Mission was established by General Synod in 2004. Significantly, it brings together people from all over the Church of Ireland. There are representatives from every diocese and a number of other Christian organisations. It reflects our commitment to bringing the Good News to this island.

Can you tell us more about the Five Marks of Mission?

After the meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council in 1984, the Church of Ireland accepted a five–fold definition of mission. As the ACC looked at Scripture and the experience of the Church, they came up with these marks as a convenient hook upon which to check the activity of the Church going forward. The Council for Mission has adopted these as the framework of our work. The booklet Radiant Faith was produced in 2018 and a series of videos commissioned with support from the Priorities Fund.

Formally, the Five Marks are to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom; to teach, baptise, and nurture new believers; to respond to human need by loving service; to transform unjust structures of society; to challenge violence of every kind and pursue peace and reconciliation; and to strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth.

The handy way to remember is five ‘Ts’ – Tell, Teach, Tend, Transform, Treasure. It is easy to see how most of our church activities falls into one of these categories. One size does not fit all.

The Discovery Gospel Choir at St Brigid's Cathedral, Kildare.
The Discovery Gospel Choir at St Brigid's Cathedral, Kildare.

What are the different challenges of mission in countries across the globe – particularly in non–English speaking countries?

The challenge to the Church is to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ afresh to each generation. Covid has reminded us of something we knew. That the Church everywhere is only one generation away from extinction. Each of us has a responsibility to pass on our faith to others.

This is as true in a rapidly changing Ireland as much as in other parts of the world. The Council for Mission seeks to facilitate and encourage mission at home as well as overseas. In many ways, the Church overseas is stronger than the Church here but it lacks the resources. We have the resources but as our culture changes, we face new opportunities.

Ireland, in both of our provinces, is rapidly secularising and growing. There are many returning to Ireland and New Irish coming to our shores. The opportunities for the Church of Ireland have never been greater and easier.

Overseas, our mission societies are involved in theological education, community building, church planting, challenging unjust structures, and caring for creation. The same is true for parish churches across this island from Malin to Mizen. The Council seeks to promote this work, encourage good practice and build up the body of Christ.

Many mission societies minister in parts of the world where English is not the first language and likewise some Anglican provinces are not English–speaking. For example, in some parts of the country, the Church in Wales is a majority Welsh–speaking church with some English–speaking congregations. It is important that people can hear the Good News in their first language.

In other parts of the world, English is the common second language and across vast parts of the world, English language churches are growing. Often this is because expats and locals wish to worship in their English, and migrants and refugees do not speak the local language but share a common English tongue. In Ireland, some churches run English language classes as a means of helping their neighbours and Christian witness.

What do you see as the Council’s role, in relation to other mission societies?

The Council for Mission seeks to raise the profile of mission within the Church, to facilitate the work of home and overseas mission, and to encourage best practice. As each diocese is represented, best practice from across the island can be shared and Good Ideas can be multiplied. A recent example is Muddy Church. The House of Bishops is represented through Bishop Ferran Glenfield who gives huge encouragement.

Refreshments after a Meath and Kildare Mothers' Union Service in Newbridge.
Refreshments after a Meath and Kildare Mothers' Union Service in Newbridge.

What have been the challenges, and opportunities for mission that have arisen out of the COVID–19 pandemic?

COVID–19 has changed the landscape. Some have lost loved ones. Many have had to think about their own mortality. We have all reflected on our priorities and the fragility of life. For some, this has meant a turning again to thinking about God.

Online worship was an early opportunity. The Council for Mission organised a webinar, ‘Lessons from the Front Line,’ in which the Revds Nicola Halford, Andrew Orr, and Cliff Jeffers shared their experience of moving some or all of their offering online.

The closure of most of our communal activities raised the challenge of discipleship, the second mark of mission. Sunday schools, youth groups, Bible study groups and home groups had to find new ways of working. Without ‘Sunday church,’ we had to rediscover how to encourage each other and build each other up in our faith. Many rediscovered a regular pattern of Bible reading and daily prayer. Some met with others for prayer on the telephone or Zoom. Many found that they had to take more responsibility for their own discipleship and to develop new practices.

The recent COP26 in Glasgow has focussed on the need for action to avert climate catastrophe, and over the next year, the Council will focus on two themes. The Teach (Discipleship) and Tend (Creation) Marks. Along with our partners, we are producing some resources and encouraging action.

What are you hoping to achieve during your term as Chair of the Council?

I am honoured and humbled to be asked to be Chair. This is such an important committee and there are so many wonderful people involved. There are some dioceses that have not taken up their seats and I would encourage them to do so. The Revds Adam Pullen and Cliff Jeffers were fantastic as Chair and Secretary.

As a committee we will aim to encourage and resource the post–Covid Church to meet the challenges of our day. As Chair, my responsibility will be to facilitate that work to the glory of God. Strategically, the Church of Ireland has the opportunity to make a difference and the people to do it.

How can people become involved in mission at a local level?

All mission is local. It starts with the parish church. It is here that we first meet the Five Marks of Mission. Although the last two years have been difficult, I would encourage everyone to come back and get involved. It is in our church family that we hear the good news, welcome others, and care for the sick, the lonely, the bereaved and the struggling. Through our local church, we can change the world and care for our part of creation. Look for a way to invite someone back to church.

Prayer is essential and as God expands our horizons we can join in with what he is doing elsewhere. Most mission societies produce fantastic literature that shares their stories. Your heart will be warmed. Talk to someone in the church and find out what societies you support and why. Try to find out how you can be involved.

What are your hopes for Advent this year?

My hope for Advent is that the Church of Ireland will continue to be a beacon of hope in a world that needs to hear of the coming of the Christ child. Jesus who by his life, death, resurrection and ascension redeemed the world. As we await his second Advent, may we use the time to fulfil his Great Commission (Matthew 28:20). This is the work of the Church that the Council seeks to help. The Five Marks give us a benchmark to guide and encourage us.

This article was first published in the December 2021 edition of the Church of Ireland Gazette.

The Gazette is published in 10 issues per year and is editorially independent of the Church of Ireland.  First published in March 1856 as a monthly journal under the title, ‘The Irish Ecclesiastical Gazette’, it took on its current name in 1900.  If you’re interested in subscribing, please click here for more information.

Ms Emma Blain

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