“We whom the Spirit lights, give light to all…”
I’ve always loved this line from the post communion prayer, so I was really happy when someone wrote it on the board as their response to the first week of our consultation towards a parish vision and mission. As I write this we are still in the season of Epiphany, when we remember and rejoice that the light of Christ was revealed to all nations by the journey of the Magi to find the infant king, and of course this is a time of year when light seems to be in short supply, and we long for the brightness to return. The prayer makes clear that we ourselves have an important part to play in sharing the light of Christ, and so bringing light into the lives of everyone around us.
St Teresa of Avila, who combined being a mystic with being the immensely practical leader of her community of nuns, has a less abstract but even more striking way of reminding us what we are called to do and be.
Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good. Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world. Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, you are his body. Christ has no body now on earth but yours.
We have been talking for some years now about the need for the parish to have a statement of our vision and mission – to understand what it means to be Christ’s body here in Haslemere – but somehow the work we have done has never come to fruition. The PCC decided in November that now is the right time and has set up a subgroup, led by Sandy Clarke (for whom the work will form part of her ordination training), to steer the process of consultation and review which will help us to discern who and what we are called to be if we are to maintain and grow God’s kingdom in this place.
People often ask about the difference between a vision statement and a mission statements, and if you’re one of them you might find it helpful to have these working definitions that the PCC group is using for the project.
Vision – a simple, short statement articulating where we would like to be as a parish in five years’ time. As church is meant to be outward looking, the vision statement should also be outward looking.
Mission – a simple, short statement articulating how we hope to achieve our vision. The mission statement should provide the touchstone against which we choose our key priorities.
I hope that this work on vision and mission will be a really significant time in the life of our parish. We are a very diverse group of people: diverse in age and background, in experience and depth and breadth of faith, in churchmanship, and in the trajectories and stages of our spiritual journeys. What we have in common is our belief that Jesus Christ is Lord, or perhaps for some of us a desire to find out if He is. As members of the Church of England we are part of an institution that is urgently called to find new ways of passing on faith to the new generations. National and local statistics show clearly that unless we can do this we are in danger of passing on only historic buildings and traditions, a kind of ecclesiastical National Trust. And we all need to work together in this, not relying on others to take the lead and do the work. We know from experience that clergy, whether stipendiary or retired, are in short supply. But we shouldn’t panic about that or anything: instead we need to have confidence that it is God’s purpose to sustain His church, and that it is our job to be in partnership with Him, being Christ’s body – hands, feet, eyes and ears – here in this place.
It’s my prayer that the work we are doing now on vision and mission will show us what this means for us, and that each one of us will find a part to play in prayer, in action and in worship. And please do take the opportunity to contribute to the thinking and planning through our consultation. PCC members, including the wardens and me of course, would love to hear your ideas and questions.
May we whom the Spirit lights give light to all.
With my love and prayers