“The task of the church is to make the invisible kingdom visible through faithful Christian living and witness-bearing.”
– J.I. Packer.
Camps, Vacation Bible Schools, mission/outreach experiences are perfect opportunities for young people, families and their leaders to experience God in intentional community and be witnesses to the Gospel in the world.
Last week Sunday, three congregations in our diocese which included 50 youth, 14 youth leaders and 7 vans chose to collaborate on high school mission trip to Washington County, VA.
The Rev. Anne Nicolson, associate rector at St. Margaret’s, writes, “Collaborating with St. Alban’s and St. Columba’s the past three days has been a wonderful experience. By working together not only can we make a bigger impact in Washington County, VA, but at the same time we are able to build community we can bring back to DC through service, fellowship, and worship together. I have watched friendships form between the youth of all three parishes and the groups have been bonding since day one. It has been great for me to get to know the leaders from the other parishes so we can continue to collaborate with each other, and hopefully more parishes, in the future.”
In youth and family ministry, collaboration is important not only for numbers sake, but for community, relationships, experiencing the wider church, having bigger impact in communities, building up of the kingdom of God and making more disciples.
The Rev. Matthew Hanisian from St. Alban’s writes:
One of the fundamental tenets of our faith is the understanding that the God we worship is one God in three persons. This means that at the core of our faith, the very nature of God is built upon the truth that God exists in relationship.
One of the hopes for this new adventure in mission for St. Alban’s, St. Margaret’s and St. Columba’s was forging new relationships between the youth and adults of these three congregations. At the end of each day here we pray the Office of Compline together, with a youth volunteer serving as the officiant. After we finish I ask the whole group two questions: “Where did you experience God alive and active today?” and, “What do you hope for tomorrow?” Far and away our experience of God has centered around the relationships being built between team members, and the relationships we are experiencing with the families we are serving.
“I’ve done a number of service trips over the years but this experience has been particularly special for the opportunity to get to know and work alongside my Episcopal neighbors in DC. They are wonderful individuals and we are united in faith and our common desire to do God’s work where it is most needed. I see this collaboration becoming a tradition and expect and hope that it leads to other opportunities for us to build community together,” says Fletcher Jones, parishioner at St. Columba’s.
On our mission trip to Washington County, VA, many continued to experience God in new ways Maggie from St. Margaret’s said, “This mission trip has given me exposure to the way that so many people in America (that worship the same God that I do) live. I have grown to really learn about my site family- they aren’t just another poverty statistic on paper and truly want to accomplish great things during the project. We learned about the culture of Rhea Valley from the principal of the school as well as talking to the family. It has made me realize the value of human connection, the hands of God as we work through God’s word.”
Looking to start collaborating with a congregation near you? Start with these questions.
1. Get to know your neighboring congregations and community
- What do you have or not have in common?
- What would build up the kingdom of God in that community?
2. Partner and/ or outsource with one another
- What does your congregation know that God has called and equipped you to do?
- Would it be helpful to have a partner to have a bigger impact on our community?
- What can you invite others to join you in?
- What collaborative effort are we going do that would make the Invisible Kingdom Visible?
- Who is doing what and when?
4. Implement- GO AND DO IT! MAKE IT HAPPEN!
“My ‘hope for tomorrow’ (next year at ASP 2016) is that we will have 8 churches and almost 100 people participate, building new relationships, seeing God alive and active in the mission work we do serving our brothers and sisters in Christ in Central Appalachia,” says the Rev. Matthew Hanisian, St. Alban’s.
If you are interested in joining the 2016 mission trip,please contact the Rev. Matthew Hanisian.
Wherever God may be calling you this summer Let us continue to make the invisible kingdom visible.