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Vicar's Musings for St Peter's Day

29 June, 2014

A parishioner recently gave me some frank feedback on the fast approaching Parish Mission. "No one I have talked to has been able to articulate a purpose for the Mission week." The idea of a Parish Mission was hatched two years ago, and since then there have been study groups, retreats, sermons, Apostrophe and newsletter articles galore. There has been lots of information, but when push comes to shove, what is it all about? It's a good question: what is the purpose of the Mission?

I've quoted this in the pew sheet before, but Fr Maynard answers the question beautifully in 1956: "it has been our custom to have a Convention, or Parochial Mission, every two or three years. These have taken various forms, and been conducted by different Bishops and outstanding missioners, some from overseas. In this way new helpers have been added to the old, and the old refreshed. We are always glad to welcome new recruits for there is a work to do."

My answer to the question is less pragmatic. I have to confess I don't yet know what the purpose of the Mission is. And that's OK. The published title for our Mission is: "Reflect, Respond, Renew." The program from the 19th to 26th July encourages reflection as a community, a waiting on the Holy Spirit, and a seeking of God's direction and purpose rather than imposing a neatly worked out plan. Waiting in openess is not easy. It is uncertain, but it is essential if we truly seek God's future for us. Bp Stephen's wonderful little book Hit the Ground Kneeling (2009) is all about that.

Growing out of our reflections, however, I trust that there will be a response, both individually and communally. When God speaks into our lives, and we listen, something new invariably comes into existence. The Bible and Church history are full of such examples of this, from Moses to the Blessed Virigin Mary. Already I am seeing examples of this in preparation for the Mission. Several months ago we added "Lazarus Centre social enterprise launch" to the Mission calendar. It was an act of faith. We were a long way off delivering the first coffee. Then a few weeks ago I met Adolf Mora, and now we have a coffee cart and experienced barista who can help the Lazarus Centre participants gain workskills and learn how to make a good cup of coffee.

The conversation about the purpose of the Mission took place in the NGV while enjoying the inspiring exhibition: "Medieval Moderns: The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood." This was a renewal, even a revolution, that took place in the art world around the same time that the Oxford Movement was gaining momentum in England and around the world. Both movements could be described as "re-traditioning" their respective fields (from the French ressourcement — my thanks to Dr Will Johnston for this). As we reflect and respond to one another and to God's Spirit through our Mission, I trust that this will in due course lead to renewal. What shape that will take, I don't know.

My questioner came up with his own answer: "The purpose of the Parish Mission is to launch new initiatives. We need to do more than find better ways to do what we already do." I'm interested to hear from others too. What do you think is the purpose of the Mission? Please feel free to e-mail me your answer: vicar@stpeters.org.au.

The Rev'd Dr Hugh Kempster

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