Some people in the church love the M word. They want to talk about it all the time. They want committees devoted to it. They want to throw piles of money at it to make it work. They want conferences and books and weekends away all dedicated to that M word. They reckon that if we’re not doing it, then the church is going to die.
So what do you think about the M word? Are you for or against? Do you love it or do you give an inward shiver every time you hear it? And you will hear it. There is no getting away from it. The M word is here to stay.
Mission. Of course. Mission is the word on everyone’s lips. If you’re not doing it then you have no life in you. Some dioceses have programmes dedicated to it. Everyone has to sign up and everyone has to share in buzz groups and pledge to do this, that or the other because if you don’t… dum, dum, dum… then surely the church will perish.
But what if you didn’t like the M word? What if you prefer another M word? What if you dreamed a dream that one day nobody would throw all the money in the diocese into M, but into your favourite M word? (Let’s call it M2.)
Ministry. Of course. What if all the money was ploughed into selecting and training and supporting and caring for fabulous priests who were so inspirational that they didn’t need to use the M word? Those priests would love liturgy so much that people would be transformed by it. They’d literally be so moved that they’d want to tell their friends about it and bring them along for a slice of that loving. Word would spread and soon everyone in town would be wanting a bit of the action. They’d want to do some of that M2 word themselves. Because they realise that the M2 word was what it was really all about.
Today a lot of my friends are out marching at Gay Pride in Glasgow. They are wearing badges and carrying banners, proclaiming to anyone who hears that the Scottish Episcopal Church welcomes them and loves them. You might call it Mission. I call it Ministry. Because my job as a Minister of Religion (at least that’s what my Tax Office calls me) is to welcome all and to love all. That is my ministry. That is our ministry. Yours and mine.To proclaim a church for all.
When I first went to church (and that was in my late 20s) it was not because of any Alpha Course or Poster or Notice in the local paper. But more importantly, the thing that made me stay was the Mass. It was every part of that liturgy: the music, the Confession, the theatre, the stories, the food for the journey, the people, and yes, the priest too. Those were the things, most of which I didn’t understand, which made me want to go back and learn more. I went with a friend and I made a thousand more. It made me want to do that M2 word every hour of every day.
And it still does. But I do wish folk would stop banging on about that M word. Just sayin’.