Sheep Among Wolves

In my former role as part of the team responsible for promoting religious education in the diocese, I would often meet with the staff of primary schools to help them formulate a mission statement for the school.

If you search on the internet for an answer to the question “What is a Mission Statement?” – this is the sort of answer you get. “ A mission statement is a short statement of why an organisation exists, what its overall goal is, identifying the goal of its operations: what kind of product or service it provides, its primary customers or market, and its geographical region of operation.” In today’s Gospel reading Jesus sends the seventy two out.

They have a mission. Note that Jesus didn’t gather them together first for a meeting to thrash out a mission statement. He sends them to go ahead of him to prepare for his visit. They go in pairs, taking nothing with them. They are instructed to salute no one on the road. They must be focusing and not allow themselves to be distracted. In the town they visit they accept the hospitality there and cure the sick and give the message that the Kingdom of God is close at hand (very near). Here we have a mission statement in action. Jesus didn’t promise that things would be easy. “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves”. Despite this they returned rejoicing.

As a parish we are empowered by Christ to continue his mission. We are called to prepare the way for the coming of Christ in the lives and hearts of all. In fact at the beginning of the our Parish Directory there is a statement of our vision as a parish which reads “to build trusting relationships with each other across every age group and nationality so we can reverently share in joyous celebration of the Eucharist and share the Good News with all.”

How well do you think we are doing in making this vision a reality at St Thomas of Canterbury today? This coming Tuesday I am on a study day for clergy, looking at the phenomenon of “Divine Revelation” a process of parish renewal intended to move parishes from maintenance to mission. This was instigated by Fr James Mallon, a Canadian priest who with a team of lay people transformed their parish of St Benedict’s in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Divine Renovation is one of the popular initiatives that encourage parishes to move from Maintenance to Mission. If we want to be missionary it will mean that we will be called to leave the comfort of the familiarly and cosy to become more like sheep among wolves.

Canon Father Anthony Charlton
Canon Father Anthony CharltonParish Priest