Mission in the West
Recently I was invited to Idaho to attend their annual Diocesan Convention. I conversed with the Rt. Rev. Brian Thom and members of his staff to learn how I might be most helpful. The theme they selected was “Many Voices, One Song.”
Bishop Thom asked that I help them understand and address issues of the “spiritual but not religious,” inclusion of rising generations in leadership, and being outwardly focused on God’s mission in their unique communities rather than dwelling inwardly on their uniquely Episcopal stress points.
I accomplished a good amount of reading in my preparation to address the convention in an effort to help clarify the difference between a generation, defined by the chronological cycle of birth dates and cultural references, and a Generational Cohort, defined by a cataclysmic event that causes a new value system demanding new structures in society.
Embracing the idea of Generational Cohorts, which do not lump all Baby-Boomers together, was a helpful perspective. Thinking about cataclysmic events within the church, and how those events have impacted local faith communities, was also an interesting exercise for participants in discussions at their tables. Having the teenagers of Idaho’s Official Youth Presence at convention, along with a few articulate, energetic, and faithful Gen X leaders was very helpful and encouraging.
What was evident to me was an amazing amount of energy and activity for mission across the diocese. I shared the Five Marks of Mission with the gathering as a tool for both observing the mission already lived out by the members, and to help discern what the Holy Spirit is calling them to do. The Five Marks of Mission provide theologically based, Baptismally sound, action language to name, claim, and engage mission.
I asked the members of the diocese to bridge from one generation to the next in identifying, affirming, equipping and partnering with potential leaders in mission according to gifts, skills, needs, and passion. They responded with many stories. I witnessed the generous distribution of $36,215.36 in grants awarded to 14 mission projects across the diocese through the work of the Idaho Episcopal Foundation. We all affirmed the amazing and faithful ministry of members of St. James’, Payette, for their prison ministry at the Snake River Correctional Institution, as they were honored with the “Hands and Heart of Jesus Award” for 2013.
And speaking of the Snake River, what an impressive and beautiful place in the world! I was mesmerized watching Base-Jumpers in Twin Falls leap from the Perrine Bridge, trusting in their skill and parachutes to bear them safely to the ground, 486 feet below the deck of the bridge. I marveled at this leap of faith being taken by people clearly participating in a spiritual and ritualistic experience. I suggested that Episcopalians in the area might consider offering blessings of parachutes and base jumpers from time to time, much as many Minnesota clergy bless motorcycles and riders each spring.
I found many different and delightful Episcopalians in Idaho, singing the one song of the Gospel, loving God with all their hearts, minds and souls, and loving their neighbors as themselves.
It was a honor and a blessing to be called to visit you, Idaho. May your mission live long as you continue to meet the needs of the world in your sacred space of creation faithfully following Jesus.