This article first appeared in the December issue of the Diocesan Post.
“…one of the greatest challenges the churches have to meet in this century is how the modern person (modern man), who cannot live the monastic life, can yet experience community life…because we have seen, it is more and more acknowledged that life together is the very essence of authentic Christian existence.” Tullio Vinay Agape Centro Ecumenico, Italy (Speaking at Corrymeeela Community, 1965)
Dear brothers and sisters,
We began this season on October 20 at Christ Church Cathedral. We gathered then to honour and raise up in the life of our diocese the ministry of the laity with the Order of the Diocese of British Columbia. The Season of Discipleship is born from our diocesan vision. It is found in faith in formation and in lay ministry and leadership, but also in youth and family life.
Remember, there is no place in scripture where the laity is referred to as a lesser order or more ignorant than the clergy. "You are my people (laity) and I am your God. Once you were not a people (laity) but now you are the people (laity) of God."(1 Peter 2:10) Two programs within our diocese come to mind that can be used for the formation of lay ministry. The Cursillo movement is one and Education for Ministry (EfM) is another. Cursillo begins with a weekend experience and develops into a study program founded in group work.
The Education for Ministry website describes the program this way: “Education for Ministry is a program of theological education by extension for lay people. There are four years of study, but participants commit for one year at a time, meeting in small groups with a trained mentor. The program combines academic study with integrative components to help participants take what they learn about Scripture, church history, theology and ethics into their own lives and hearts, supporting them in living out a vibrant baptismal ministry in the church and in the world.”
I am very interested in how the Diocese of New Westminster will be looking at renewing the Cursillo experience and developing it into a new model. My hope is that we will continue to use, strengthen and shape EfM and Cursillo anew in the life of our diocese.
A season of discipleship is about life together. It is my hope that together we will begin to live in community in several ways. Many have heard me refer to page 555 of the Book of Common Prayer which directs every Christian to live by a rule (rhythm of life). The rule calls us to pray, to study, to worship and to give.
It is a rhythm every Christian is invited to live daily. Parishes are encouraged to form groups that regularly come together to tell their story, to pray, to study and to encourage each other to be witnesses. There are those in our parishes who already live this way. There will be others who need to be reminded of this invitation, or have it extended to them for the first time.
Another rule of life is found in the gospel-based A Disciple’s Prayer Book that comes from the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples and can be downloaded free from the General Synod website. During the Season of Discipleship, it is my hope that you will use A Disciple’s Prayer Book as your primary resource.
Gospel-based discipleship is not a program. It is not bible study. It is an encounter with the Gospel, designed to engage people with the Gospel appointed for the day, or the Sunday proper. It depends on participants being willing to share responses to the three questions. The Gospel is read three times and after each time the question is asked. What words or ideas did you hear? What is Jesus (the Gospel) saying to you? What is Jesus (the Gospel) calling you to do?
As you gather, take time to be attentive to the reading and the questions. The experience of the word that is before us is the central engagement. I will continue to work with the vision [implementation teams] shaping and forming the Community of Learning within our diocese. It is my hope that in the new year we will begin to see and experience a fuller program being offered. I will also continue to work with the youth council of the diocese to build up youth ministry and leadership giving them, as well, an experience of a community of learning.