Vicar's Musings for Ordinary Sunday 4
29 January, 2017
The St Peter's 2016-18 Mission Action Plan (MAP) focuses on seven ministry areas, through which we are seeking to "Grow in God's Love" as a parish: Catholic Evangelism, Pastoral Care, Children and Youth, Anglo-Catholicism, Faith Development, Social Justice and Stewardship. Over coming weeks the Vicar's Musings will reflect on each of these in turn.
"Catholic Evangelism" is defined by the English bishop, Stephen Cottrell, as: "becoming a missionary and evangelistic church. Its first fruit is renewed service to the local community. Catholic evangelism is shaped by Catholic spirituality. It is about the incarnation — finding God in human life — and it is about service. Its method is that of the accompanied journey. We learn how to share faith with people, challenge people to respond to the call of the gospel and accompany them on a journey that leads to commitment and church membership .... The aim of Catholic evangelism is that all baptised Christians should share an apostolic ministry" (Catholic Evangelism, p. 2).
An important point to underline is that Catholic Evangelism is not just the Vicar's job! Every baptised Christian is called to proclaim the gospel that she or he has received, and to nurture in the faith fellow pilgrims who similarly respond to that call. Befriending a visitor or newer parishioner, for example, is an evangelistic act that most of us do very naturally. I heard an encouraging story last week of two visitors to our church at last year's Open House Melbourne. Fr Graeme talked to the couple and encouraged them to come to church the next day. They took him up on the offer, and were amazed that he remembered their names. The beauty of our liturgy touched them, and then other members of the congregation warmly welcomed them over refreshments after the service. They joined the parish there and then, and have been worshipping with us almost every week since, joining small groups and helping out around the parish. Evangelism is the work of the whole church.
It is important also to note that Catholic evangelism takes time; it is about building relationships and growing in our mutual understanding of God's love. "Discipleship" is a related concept that Bp Cottrell emphasises: "The theological rationale for this evangelism is plain and simple: Jesus' great commission at the end of Matthew's gospel (Mtt 28:18-20). But Jesus does not say 'go and make converts', he says 'go and make disciples'. This is a process which begins by hearing God's great love for us in Christ and proceeds by way of repentance and faith to a new and abundant life .... This is what evangelism is concerned with: making disciples. The distinctive contribution that Catholic Christians can make is to see this as a process which involves the whole church and leads people to active discipleship within the church" (pp. 3-4).
The Rev'd Dr Hugh Kempster
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