The Faith and Life Commission of Mosaic Conference provides space for pastors and credentialed leaders to build ties of friendship and support between each other. We convene quarterly in order to discuss scripture and to hear stories of how we might interpret and apply those scriptures. We also pray for each other and our congregations in light of our reflections. We seek to develop relationships of mutual trust and accountability, deepening our convictions and the involvement we have in the congregations we lead.
Over the course of this past year, we have taken a look at the theme of local mission, breaking it down into several sub-themes: sexuality and gender (February 2020), national and political identities (May 2020), socio-economic status (August 2020), and pastoral identity (November 2020).
This February, we gathered virtually to discuss how local mission relates to our cultural identity and to our positions within our communities. We also examined how our identities might make things more challenging for us to minister effectively there.
Through Zoom, we broke into groups of 4-5 people and reflected upon John 4:4-26 in light of that topic. Given Jesus’s encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well, we asked ourselves the following questions:
- How did Jesus’s communal, cultural, and religious identity as a Jew impact his ability to engage with this woman?
- How might that interaction have been different had they discussed things outside of a Jewish town, instead of a Samaritan town?
- How can sense of place and identity found in our own ministry contexts bring about unique challenges and opportunities in our attempts at missional involvement?
- How might we better equip people in our ministry contexts to become more aware of the challenges and opportunities presented by our cultural identities and positions within our communities?
With these questions before us, my group recognized that our ministry sites experienced significant change over these past several decades. Many of us now find ourselves in congregations nested in suburban contexts with a lessened sense of community and an increased capacity toward mobility. Such a context has considerable impact upon how our church members now relate to each other.
We paused for a fresh look at the idea of “place” and the role it plays for our church members and their identities. Several in our group noted that they often still consider their locations as agricultural, even though the actual surroundings are increasingly suburban. Many of our church buildings are located on pieces of land that once were farms, but are now located next to shopping malls, business districts, or within suburban housing developments. Church members often no longer live near our churches, and many drive significant distances to attend church services.
Our group noted, however, that things were not so simple: not all of us minister in the same context. One in our group ministers within a retirement facility, where residents are not mobile but instead come from a variety of cultural and religious traditions.
Our group noted, however, that things were not so simple: not all of us minister in the same context.
The retirement home is very different from the more mobile, but culturally homogenous, nature of many churches. We wondered how we might better live as Anabaptists, valuing who we have become and our history, given our current contexts.
In Jesus’s encounter with the Samaritan woman and our discussion, we realized we need to rethink what it means to be church today. We closed in prayer, provocatively challenged, increasingly aware that we need God’s help with this issue and with the renewed leadership roles it places before us.
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