The Mission of the Church is our Mission

Since lay people, like all Christ’s faithful, are deputed to the apostolate by baptism and confirmation, they are bound by the general obligation and they have the right, whether as individuals or in associations, to strive so that the divine message of salvation may be known and accepted by all people throughout the world. This obligation is all the more insistent in circumstances in which only through them are people able to hear the Gospel and to know Christ.                       Canon 225    THE CODE OF CANON LAW

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Some years ago a friend of mine was working for a small communications company which had been taken over. Within weeks he knew that all was not well. He left for another job before it failed. In his original company everyone had been clear about what it was they produced, how it was going to be marketed, and that everyone was involved. At times of pressure all were willing to work flexibly, and jobs were shared as needed. But the first management meeting of the new larger company spent most of its time discussing office furniture, and specifications of company cars which distinguished management levels. “They’ve forgotten the salesmen” my friend wailed, “but it’s the salesmen who sell the product and make the money.”

The Church, because it is an institution both human and divine, can also get into the same fix. It is all too easy to confuse the mission of the Church as the People of God, with the resources needed to carry out that mission. Let’s try and think of it in the area with which most of us will be familiar – the parish. So we sum up what the Church exists for something like this:

celebrate mass

The parish of the Assumption of Our Lady, Lydmouth, exists for the worship of Almighty God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The People of God come together every Sunday to celebrate the Mass, when they hear the word of God and participate in the offering which Jesus Christ has made for the sins of the whole world.

The mission of the parish is the mission of all Catholic Christians:

1. CATECHESIS (Teaching & Formation) so that every believer may grow in the knowledge and love of the Scriptures, the teaching of the Church, and in prayer …

evangelisatrion

2. COMMUNION  (Fellowship) so that our love and service of God and of each other may be deepened and strengthened …

3. EVANGELISATION so that the people of our parish may hear the Good News of Jesus Christ, and experiencing it among us in this parish, may turn to him and be saved for eternal life.

care for sick

4. PASTORAL CARE so that we may reflect the love of God for his creation, as we serve each other and reach out to meet the needs of our local community.

In order to carry out its vocation of worship and mission each parish needs four resources:

1. Finance so that there is sufficient money and a realistic budget              

2. People to exercise key roles of  leadership, formation and outreach. This will include the ordained Pastor who exercises oversight in the name of the bishop, presides over the Eucharist  and ensures faithfulness in teaching.

3. Buildings and accommodation appropriate to the needs and financial resources of the parish.

4. Governance  (Organisation) to form and serve efficiently the work of the parish and its relationships.

I think we can see how this model of mission and resources could be taken upwards to the level of the Diocese, and downwards to the home groups and mission stations which the parish may initiate. For the Ordinariate in the UK clarity in mission and careful resourcing of all of its groups might be used to direct policy, to make decisions about growth and planting as well the more painful ones concerning closure.

One of the greatest dangers for the Church is a failure to understand that resources are there to serve mission: resources are never an end in themselves. Those of us who are former Anglicans remember the constant struggle to resist our parishes becoming building preservation societies. Sometimes we wonder about the independent evangelical churches, where mega-finance seems too high on the agenda. And what of the Catholic Church?

Here we see the danger that governance (organisation) may sometimes fail to serve the mission and become an end in itself. The Holy Father himself has begun the process of reform at the centre so that necessary institutions may more clearly, humbly and efficiently enable the saving work of the Church.

pope francis smile

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About Scott Anderson

Formerly an Anglican priest (ordained 1975) received into the Catholic Church in February 2012, and ordained to the Diaconate on 27th July 2013. I took early retirement, and divide my time between London and northern France. I am deeply committed to the Ordinariate as a gift of the Holy Spirit in the search for unity. Like many Ordinariate members I feel a personal gratitude to Pope Emeritus Benedict, together with loyalty to our Holy Father, Pope Francis. My blog tries to make a small contribution to the growth of the Ordinariate by asking questions (and proposing some answers) about the 'Anglican Patrimony'. I have always been fascinated by the whole issue of growth and decline, and therefore concerned for appropriate means of evangelisation in western Europe. I believe that the Holy Spirit is constantly renewing the People of God and that we must be open to him. My love of music and motorcycles will occasionally surface in my posts. On Saturday 19th October 2013, I was ordained to the Priesthood at Most Precious Blood, Borough, by the Most Revd Peter Smith, Archbishop of Southwark, for the service of the Ordinariate of our Lady of Walsingham. I continued to serve the Ordinariate group and Parish at Most Precious Blood until the end of 2014. Subsequently, I helped in the care of the Ordinariate Groups at Hemel Hempstead and Croydon, and in the Archdiocese of Southwark, until the beginning of September 2015. With the agreement of my Ordinary, Mgr Keith Newton, the Bishop of Amiens appointed me Administrator of the Parish of Notre Dame des Etangs (Pont Remy) in Picardie, France. This appointment is to last for a year, to give the Bishop the opportunity to assess the future of the parish.
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2 Responses to The Mission of the Church is our Mission

  1. You are right Father Scott. I also feel that another challenge facing the Church is to be fully inclusive of all within society and to be seen to be so.

  2. Rhiannon says:

    Yet another challenge is the one expressed in a letter to one of the Catholic weeklies, about the commissioning of lay people to conduct funerals in Liverpool. The writer is very “passionate” (aaaargh!) about “how even the best instructed laity could carry the weight” of this responsibility
    I. on the other hand, wonder how a parish priest who has studied no Latin, nor NT Greek, nor Philosophy,nor Logic can “carry the weight” of the preaching ministry, especially when there are lay people in the congregation who have done all that
    I’m very very happy that I can call you Farve again – it was very good to be there last week.

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