The Gospel Call renewal event that I shared in Montreal two weeks ago has four specifically stated goals:
- To deepen our Christian sense of identity and solidarity with one another.
- To enable the co-sponsoring congregations to envision their mission differently.
- To identify concrete ways that congregations can act together in the future.
- To increase awareness of the biblical call to unity in faith, worship and mission.
Gospel Call is a ministry under the oversight of the North American Paulist Ministry Center in Washington, D.C.. Further information is available at the Paulist site.
On the last day of our Gospel Call mission in Montreal Fr. Tom Ryan and I led a “follow-through” event at the Lutheran Church. After a meal we invited leaders from the nine participating churches to come together as a group for prayer and one more symbolic expression of our oneness. In this instance the liturgy was quite simple and did not include a sermon. We placed an open Bible before the congregation and offered prayers.
Following this opening time of gathering we broke into six small groups around various ministries within the congregations. These included youth ministry, liturgy and music, administration, social action, Christian education, and mission. After about forty-five minutes in the small groups settings the people gathered together again. Fr. Ryan and I led them through an identification process through which we wrote their observations and ideas on a white board. We showed them several ways in which they could pursue some of mission together and encouraged them to come back the next week to begin a process of working on specific things. This process is meant to create ongoing collaboration between the local churches as they face their future together rather than entirely separate from one another. We ended our evening with another prayer time.
So, does this mission work? I think the honest answer to this must be left to the Spirit’s work and the response of the local churches and leaders in the months ahead. Fr. Ryan and I sowed good seed in Christ’s love. I believe this is a start but only a start. I wish there were a hundred similar Gospel Call missions taking place in North America. I know of no other teams doing what we did in Montreal but there are some grassroots efforts in various cities and regions that approximate what we attempted in Montreal. I also know that Fr. Ryan has some stories of ongoing ecumenical mission happening in places where he has done a Gospel Call event in the past.
The first Gospel Call event, before the actual name was even chosen, occurred twenty-five years ago in Canada. Fr. Ryan shared with me some of the ongoing story of how this mission continues to change the way those particular churches do mission. This encourages me to believe that our sowing this seed was worth the effort even though our numbers were not huge. (We had between 120-180 people at the three main services!) The real story is not about how large the crowd was but rather about how the Spirit worked in these churches and their leaders. I believe great good was done in Montreal in this mission. I look forward to seeing what this means going forward. Ultimately, I realize that Tom and I only “sow” while others may “harvest” (John 4:37) but it is God alone who will grant lasting fruit in his own time and way.