In this update you will find:
1. A reflection on my progress
2. The next steps based on the things others have affirmed
3. Plans for my time back to the UK from September 29th
4. How I can serve you.
Bonus 5. My first sermon preached for Downtown Hope
I’m coming to the end of this my first year in America and I have so much to share. This year I have learned the value of being available to others, to walk with people through their trials and that the most important thing I can do for anyone else is to be faithful to God. Any and all good fruit comes from this, despite what smooth-talking marketing types might suggest, I have learned that what I do is much less important than the person I am.
This is a lesson I in fact learned from the Book of Common Prayer. Over the summer I began inviting people to worship with me on a Wednesday night using the old liturgy for Vespers (Evening Prayer). Kneeling we confess our sin and standing we affirm our unity in the Triune God; we listen to Scripture being read. We pray for the church and for the world; and we do all of this without using clever words of our own invention. To worship in such a way that the only offering I can bring is myself, that I can’t make any grand performance of elaborate prayers that make me look special, that we are all included in this same experience, held to account by these words given to us has been deeply humbling. I cannot do anything to make God’s kingdom come any sooner except pray ‘your Kingdom come’.
I think that by making disciplined choices to be a certain kind of person before I think about doing certain kinds of things I have been able to have a far greater impact in Annapolis. I am a part of this community because I took time to listen and be with the people of it before I thought about what I can to to help those people or teach them the faith. Being sent here as a Missionary, I thought I was supposed to make a difference by starting some kind of programme. Having helped launch and maintain several programmes which connect people across socio-economic boundaries I know now that what is asked of all Christians is firstly that they pattern their lives after Jesus. Activity and activism are good, but they are not the Everlasting Kingdom.
We know Jesus is present on the earth not because some people got some more food but because a person walked into another person’s life in his Name.
This is what I believe to be not only the heart of mission, but the heart of all the Church’s common life.
Therefore I have come to understand my calling as the calling to go and be, rather than go and do. This is how I have seen people make steps of discipleship: Not because I told them what to do, but because I first showed them.
For this reason I am joining a mission house in Annapolis. A central location in the heart of the city where Christians offer hospitality, ministry and welcome to outsiders. I am making a decision to live for the blessing of others with all the hours of my week, by sharing my time, energy and possessions with any who should have need of them. This is an opportunity I was offered 12 months ago but I did not yet feel ready for the demands of such a life. From the bedrock of the disciplines I have recieved from the traditions of the church, I feel confident now that I can live for others without becoming overwhelmed or discouraged. It’s funny that a year ago I thought I was giving up a lot to follow Christ across an ocean, and now this next step just seems so obvious.
My goal is to offer to those I live with and those who cross my path regular opportunities to come together for some act of common worship in order that a community of people would become the light of Christ in this city.
We would aim to make the grace and presence of God known and visible to those who now neither see it nor know it.
In order to accomplish this work I will be learning from those who have planted churches and started new works, and also under the authority of Downtown Hope’s leadership for accountability and support. It has taken me a long time to come around to the idea that I could or should attempt to catalyse a community such as this, but having received the affirmation of my colleagues at Downtown Hope and many others I would like to embark on the work of calling a people together for the worship of God.
Before this can occur I need to wait for my visa to be renewed and this means a short trip back to England. I will be landing on September 29th and am likely to be in England for a few weeks. We submitted some paperwork that would allow me to stay for up to 5 years last month but I think if you’ve walked with me on this journey for the past couple of years you’ll know how my last attempt was fraught with difficulties. This time around the church is a registered charity, which was the reason the paperwork didn’t go through last time. I am confident I’ll be back in the USA later this year.
So what will I be doing in England?
Well, I hope you’ll help me answer that question. I would like to share the things I’ve learned about ministry with the poor and marginalised, engaging 20-somethings with the Common Prayer tradition, Evangelism as being Christ to others and the value of being known by name to the baristas and barstaff of your neighborhood. In other words, I am available and would love to serve you! I also spent this year developing my skills in communication and design, making downtownhope.org both beautiful and full of useful resources. I am available for hire to churches and individuals to enduring communications solutions. I’d like to spend a bit of time reading and maybe get myself back behind a bar for a while too.
Please DO reach out to me for visits, either just for fun or if you would like me to share any of my experiences, or to hear about the vision for a faith community in Annapolis. I would love to serve you with my skills, experiences or by pulling you a pint. You can email me at email@example.com
Thank you as always to those who have been supporting me financially this year and those who have checked in on me from time to time. I rely on the support of the people of God to enable my ministry and as I take this next step I am going to continue to need it.
I look forward to hearing from you!