A Missionary in a First World Country
So, here we are. I have been in Liverpool for almost two months now and it is incredible. I don't think that I will ever get over the size and beauty of the cathedral. It is magnificent. Everyone here has been wonderful. They are so excited that we are here and have welcomed us with open arms. This post is about something that I have been thinking about for a while and I hope will answer some questions a few of you may have. Hopefully another post will be out soonish, regarding all of the interesting things we have done/seen and all of the fun I have been having while working here.
Before I left and since I’ve been here the same question seems to keep popping up.
Why is a missionary in a first world country?
England doesn’t really seem like the first place someone thinks of when they think of a missionary. I have had a lot of people ask me why I was sent to Liverpool. They have running water and traffic lights, and the church seems to be everywhere (It’s called the Church of England, for heaven’s sake).
So here I go to try and shed some light on these questions. I guess the best way to do this is to start with faith and then throw in some numbers and statistics.
Well first of all, let’s talk about what mission is. Somehow this has become a harder question to answer than it should be. We have allowed people to monopolize the definition of this word to fit their work, and while that work and sacrifice is something that should be recognized it is not the complete definition of mission as Christ identified it to be. The Anglican Communion identifies the definition of mission with five “Marks”. The Five Marks are meant to serve as a summary of what mission is truly about based on Christ’s own summary of his mission.
The Five Marks of Mission are:
1. To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom
2. To teach, baptize and nurture new believers
3. To respond to human need by loving service
4. To see to transform unjust structure of society, to challenge violence of every kind and to pursue peace and reconciliation
5. To strive to safeguard the integrity of creating and sustain and renew the life of the earth
These begin to build a much bigger picture of mission than the small box we sometimes put it in. Mission is following in the path laid out by Christ who has gone ahead of us and has given us the opportunity to serve others through love.
For a lot of Episcopalians and Anglicans (however you want to identify yourself) these are nothing new, but maybe they are something that has been forgotten about from time to time, I know that’s happened to me.
OK, great, but how are we doing this in Liverpool? I think part of mission is figuring out how to live out the marks just as much as doing the act itself. I do believe however that these can all be accomplished by simply being with people. We are here to rejoice, work, love, and suffer with people as Christ would. To strive to be a better person and hopefully help others grow as children of God as well.
So much of what Christ preached was silence and communion. We are told not to brag about what we have done and to share our blessings with others who have not been given as much.
So how does this tie back into living in England? The first answer to this is that as the Five Marks show, mission can be done anywhere. It is not something with a geographic restriction. Mission is something that we are meant to live.
During the seven weeks that I have been here I have been able to begin to build relationships with so many wonderful people. Some of the adults and kids that I work with seemed to be unsure of me at first, almost as if they were waiting on me to try and change who they are or judge them. Honestly I was worried about what other people thought of me too and I’m sure that did not help anything to begin with. But now that has changed. Not because I have helped them take some giant leap with their faith, or anything like that, but because I have simply joined them where they are at this very moment. I love the time between events where I get to sit and talk with people about whatever is going on in our lives and to simply ‘be’ together.
That being said, there are things that I think people should know about Liverpool and the city’s unfortunate relationship with poverty. Just like in the United States, being a “first world country” doesn’t mean that everyone lives above the poverty line. Liverpool is home to some of the most deprived areas in this country. Large sections of the area are within the most deprived 1%-10% of the nation. The Diocese of Liverpool is large, larger than a lot of our dioceses in the states, and still the diocesan averages for things such as child poverty, lone parenthood, and life expectancy are all below the national average.
Like any area there are places where these numbers do not apply. The thing that people need to remember though is that the others still need help. We aren’t here to be superheroes or to try and save the day. We are here to help connect some dots and to help others realize that they can serve too. We are here in communion, to be with our community through the highs and lows and to learn from what they teach us just as much as we hope to aid them.
Some of the work that I do is on the diocesan level and some is with individual parishes. One church that I work with on a regular basis is St. Luke’s the Evangelist in Walton. It is a small parish with wonderful people. They run programs for the adults and children of their community regardless of where they attend church. The spirit of those who work and volunteer there is strong and their commitment is clear. With a population of 5,396, it ranks 22 out of 12,599, where 1 is the most deprived parish. This means that St. Luke’s is among the most deprived in the country. Yet, this does not deter those who have chosen to commit to their parish. Their decision to stand firm in a time of uncertainty, both for the parish and possibly themselves, is inspiring. I love getting to spend time with the people of St. Luke’s. They prove that mission is just as needed in our own homes and that service to others is necessary for the growth of God’s communion.
I’ve included some links and attachments with more information about poverty levels in England and the Diocese of Liverpool. I hope you check them out, and maybe even explore what else this information has to offer. Again, thank you so much for all of your support and I always love to hear from you.
https://www.cuf.org.uk/diocesan-briefings (Select Liverpool Diocese to read about where I am)