How far will you go for mission?
Recently, I heard that my twenty-something cousin and her new husband are moving to help plant a church in the north-east. 25 other young adults and their families are moving with them and the “new chapter” for this church will begin in the autumn.
Having been in Richmond for two months now, as we begin our own “new chapter”, I know just how invaluable it is to have people commit to the mission in a particular place. We have been blessed in a surprising and beautiful way at how this has happened here. I had been planning to begin a PhD in the area before Fr Stephen heard he was moving to the parish. It seemed like a “no-brainer” to go and help with the mission. On the way home from a retreat, I flippantly joked with my friend Collette that she should come and join us in London. A couple of months later, that joke had crystallised into a real plan. At the same time, various other young people had been moving into the parish with a sense of excitement for evangelisation. Some already lived in the area. And so a small network of disciples is growing around this parish.
Many people, including Catholics, find this hard to comprehend. They can understand why you’d move for a new job or to an area that you want your family to live in. But to up sticks for the sake of mission? Isn’t that a bit radical?
Traditionally, missionaries have been religious, people who consecrate their lives in order to be utterly surrendered for the sake of mission. But there’s no reason why, young and single lay Catholics cannot also make such a decision. What a beautiful offering to make, to offer one’s availability and freedom. To say, “Something is happening here. I want to make a commitment of my own gifts and time. I’m in!”
I’m not sure what this would look like for married couples and families. I know that this is happening in my cousin’s church and other ‘church plants’. I know that families within new movements (e.g. the Neocatechumenal Way) would move to dedicate their whole family to a particular mission. Why shouldn’t this also happen in a parish?
My experience of the first few months here in Richmond is one of great joy. A blossoming little community, the first hints of conversions, the building of relationships. It also involves tremendous work – rolling up your sleeves and getting stuck into things you never thought you’d do. Bill Hybels describes the early days of his own church, Willow Creek. In those days, their motto was, “Whatever It Takes.” And I feel the same for us at this time, too. Some evenings like this one, our experience of the Holy Spirit at work in individual lives is so astonishing that we can just praise God and thank him for allowing us to witness this and be a part of it. How wonderful that he uses us!
If you are attracted to a place where you see the Holy Spirit at work – don’t think you’re mad for wanting to move there. Perhaps it is a real call. Why wouldn’t God call you? Maybe you and your gifts are needed in a specific place. Getting stuck in is like committing to a family – it means giving ourselves to the wonderful and more difficult elements. But the joy of being part of a common mission, as a family of disciples, is more than worth it.