26 November 2020

Learning to appreciate our own homes as centres for mission

The Revd Rachel Parkinson , Chair of the Wolverhampton & Shrewsbury District, shares how the people of the Methodist Church in her area have brought mission home through the pandemic.

Modern letter boxes are a blessing and a bane.  Brilliant at reducing draughts they can be fiendishly difficult to post a letter through.  I discovered this yesterday as I engaged in my own version of a “home mission”, inviting neighbours to take part in a project that will culminate in a nativity display on the drive outside our house.  It’s something I’d never have done without the pandemic. 

The language of Home Missions - as distinct from Overseas Missions -  has been in use in Methodism since Victorian times.  In 2012 the Methodist Conference affirmed that there we have  only One Mission, which is both local and global, rendering the term “Home Missions” redundant.   However, the church’s experience during COVID-19 persuades me that the time is ripe to reintroduce and repurpose this language.

The Wolverhampton & Shrewsbury District is supporting the “God is with us” Christmas campaign by making available small grants to encourage churches to be a blessing to their communities.  Most of these projects will be prayed for, planned and prepared using people’s homes as a base - with dining room tables turned into production lines for DIY Christingle kits, Advent activity bags and food hampers.  In turn, the place where these intended blessings will be received and engaged with won’t be the church hall but hundreds of different homes, reaching further, deeper and more inclusively into the communities we serve. 

Messy Church provides a different example.  If you’ve been involved with the movement over recent years you’ll know that there’s been a determined effort to encourage families to “take their faith home with them” when they leave their once-a-month gathering in a church building.  But what if families take part in Messy Church in their own homes in the first place, through a digital engagement?  Might this help more Messy Church families to become households of faith?  Skills developed during lockdown have helped one of our lay pioneers to begin preparing for a Fresh Expression of Messy Church living permanently online.

On the missional map in our heads, a few bright lights used to shine out, showing the position of our church buildings.  But as these lights were forced to turn off during lockdown, hundreds of little lights in Roads, Streets, Avenues and Crescents are shining more brightly.  With no access to the church hall, we’re learning to appreciate our own homes as centres for mission.  It can be as simple as putting up a poster or lighting a candle in a window.   This new missional map makes me smile.  I want us to keep those little lights burning. 

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