Lenten Practices: Small Shifts in Thinking Lead to Big Shifts in Acting

What if I told you that the smallest thing you could do to prepare yourself for serving God’s kingdom in the world was to give up using the term “outreach” for Lent? What if I suggested that the small shift in thinking about our work in the world from “outreach” to “mission” was so vital, that future of the church in the 21st century (and beyond) would demand it?

While most people in the church-world have long used “outreach” as the catch phrase for all philanthropy generated by the church, the term “outreach” has built into itself a set of unintended sensibilities that very often go unnoticed, unchecked, and unprovoked – leaving the “outreach” of many churches to look more a kin to the distribution model of the United Way than that of a Christ-centered faith community. What is more, while no one would ever accuse most churches of harm by doing “outreach,” its very definition evokes notions of power vs. powerless, haves vs. have-nots, and us vs. them.

My friends, we may never have meant to create such a world out of such an innocent term; however, if we are to be the church of and for all God’s children in the 21st century (and beyond), we have to let go of our weary struggle to do “outreach” and embrace our rightful place as a community of faith, on mission of justice, in the world, starting right where we are planted.

Over the course of the last 18 months, the Missional Core group of Holy Innocents’ Episcopal Church (formerly the Outreach Committee) has been inviting HIEC to just such a journey. The Core has met every month to pray, discuss, and make itself aware of matters related to children in Georgia. In September 2106, the Core released its vestry approved set of Missional Focus Areas and has invited every single parishioner to consider the question, “What is calling you?” Their persistence in prayer and activism has led to a new era of child-focused mission through HIEC.

In short, your response to start where we have been planted has been amazing and it is rippling through Sandy Springs, metro-Atlanta, and Fulton County. But muy friends, there is plenty of more work to do!!

Did you know that since September HIEC has:
Honored the Holy Innocents of Our Day through burial services for 25 children;
Hosted a Prayer Vigil and Requiem Mass for the Holy Innocents of Our Day that engaged over 40 parishioners in the prayerful remembrance of over 1000 children who died by violence in 2015-16;
Hosted the annual Lake Forest Elementary Thanksgiving meal that provided a meal to over 450 children and families;
Been featured in articles through the Diocesan networks, Episcopal News Service, Christian Century, and local news outlets.

Did you know that in the next two months HIEC will:
Launch Promise 686 – an faith-based foster family support ministry through HIEC;
Host a Family Promise week for families in homelessness;
Continue to bear witness to the burial of children in Georgia and partner to make burial clothes for those who can not afford them?

If you didn’t know about these ministries and events, let me personally invite you to come hear stories of God’s work through HIEC at a Missional Monday. At these gatherings, HIEC parishioners telling faith stories of how God has been moving in their lives as they’ve made the small shift to put their lives to work through mission at HIEC. PLEASE JOIN US soon and discover what is calling you!

Oh that God might create a space in us to make small shifts in perspective, language, and posture that new mission and ministry may emerge. And who knows, with a little prayer, and a dash of faith, maybe just maybe our work will make Georgia a little holier of a place for all God’s children.