Words strain,
Crack and sometimes break, under the burden…

So wrote T S Eliot in Burnt Norton. Words carry different meanings for different people. Scholars of linguistics will tell us that words only carry the meanings given to them by the speaker and hearer. And, of course, the meaning spoken and the meaning heard might be quite different. All this can sometimes make communication rather difficult at times!

Take the word ‘mission’, for example: it crops up often in church circles; it occurs frequently in connection with our diocesan initiative, Casting the Net. And it is right there in the title of the Mission Action Planning (MAP) process in which we are engaged at present. As most of you will know, in order to ground MAP in the perhaps more familiar language of the liturgy, we gave our manifestation of it a subtitle: ‘To love and serve the Lord’, the words of Dismissal from the Scottish Liturgy 1982.

To love and serve the Lord is what all church congregations are called to do in whatever ways they can. Abilities change in the same way that opportunities change: what we were able to do then might not what we are able to do now; needs then might no longer be needs now. And vice versa.

In 2013-14, the present congregation of All Saints – a congregation which, because of the nature of this small university town, changes year by year – is looking at who we are now, and at what God might be calling us to do now. Put it another way: we are looking for what God is doing here and now and getting involved with that, the work of God: in worship, in service.

What MAP doesn’t mean is having change imposed upon us. What MAP does mean is looking thoughtfully and (above all) prayerfully at All Saints and the community in which this church is placed. MAP means a kind of holy awareness. Mission shouldn’t be something that comes up every decade or so; mission should be something we do all the time, without thinking – in the sense that we breathe without thinking. And that would certainly relieve the word of some of its burden.

With every blessing

Fr Jonathan