2011 Lexington DJO Training event

2011 Lexington DJO Training event
Getting ready to deploy for a work day with St. Timothy's, Barnes Mountain

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Reflections on Jubilee Ministry and faith formation in the Church

How do you see this work engaging or transforming church as a whole?
I would like to engage this question based on narrative about my observations being involved with Jubilee Ministry and diocesan network development efforts. I have served in this church as the founder of a new Jubilee Ministry, as a Diocesan Jubilee Officer who built a dynamic network and as the staff officer accountable for the development of this program as it responds to General Convention resolutions of nearly thirty years.

Jubilee Ministries exist because someone at the local community level in a diocese is compelled to respond in a concrete way to a real issue of human struggle as an expression of their Christian faith being put into action. That response no doubt grows until it resonates with other Episcopalians who share that deep concern and its corresponding connection to their faith understanding. From that common perspective congregational ministry often plants its roots and grows. Organization, recruitment, budgets and fund raising follow. 

Interestingly, the needs based world of non-profits suggests that this mode of planning is backward. They suggest that planning begin with a clear vision and mission based upon careful research of needs, demographics, and other resources followed by a study of the best practices applied by others doing similar work among similar populations.  But that really isn’t my experience of how the Holy Spirit works when it comes down to inspiring people into action. Their awareness of need and their sense of capacity to respond usually cumulate until a moment of clear recognition that they have something to contribute in response to that need.  Most people respond to need out of their deep emotional identification with the suffering of those they want to help, for whatever the reason. In other words, most responses to human suffering are not based on logic and intellect,  but rather they are based on relational association and an overwhelming desire to respond.

Why this back ground?  When I began the work of engaging the northwest Denver community in a process that resulted in the establishment of the
32nd Avenue
Jubilee Center I didn’t begin with any awareness that there was an actual program named Jubilee Ministry in the Episcopal Church. I began out of deep association with the struggle of people in my local community. It was only out of that engagement that I later learned about Jubilee Ministry as a program of this church. I applied for status as a Jubilee Ministry seeking the recognition and affirmation of the wider church validation of this ministry. I didn’t seek funds, though I certainly needed them. I didn’t seek networking partnerships though that would have been a source of real assistance I could have used. I had a lot of practical needs that I could have used help with had I known where to turn for that help, but I didn’t turn to Jubilee Ministry because I didn’t know that it had any thing to offer beyond the prize of affirmation by the larger church.

Later when working to develop a network of Jubilee Ministries I invited other clergy to consider ministries they were familiar that might also have been examples of Jubilee Ministry worthy of recognition. Interestingly, many were thinking that I was asking them to take on something new. And that was never the case. I merely wanted to ask them to open their eyes and to look around and to point to existing ministry that was happening that we could affirm and invite others to emulate. The common perception is that Jubilee Ministry is asking congregations and dioceses to do something new. The reality is that Jubilee Ministry is the recognition of something that is already being done. As part of a network they are given the opportunity to share about their work with others who may be contemplating similar paths for ministry. At the same time each diocese has a vision for ministry that captures the spirit of the congregations and ministries of that diocese.  Consequently the work of building a diocesan Jubilee Ministry network is work that needs to be accomplished in concert with the diocesan bishop and leadership.

In all cases Jubilee Ministry is locally driven. It responds to the reality of human suffering within the context and dynamics of congregations and their diocese. Successful work by the Church Center can only be realized when its beginning and ending are founded upon the interests of local Jubilee Ministries and the diocese in which they’re located. All resourcing, organizational development, funding initiatives must first and foremost begin with those needs in mind. 

When the work of this office supports and affirms ministry that is happening on the local level engagement and transformation can continue to happen. We must be focused on listening and learning about the local needs of those doing ministry, much as local ministries begin by listening and learning about the particular needs of the people they are called to serve. Rather than provide program to be adopted, we better serve the local community when we networking is used as a means of communicating to others what we are hearing and learning all along the way. It would have been a blessing to me to have had someone seeking me out to offer me resources aimed at assuring my success, rather than to be left to learn alone without the benefit of wisdom gained by the many people who had labored through similar over the years before me.

The goals and activities listed above ultimately focus of the building of networks. They seek to bring people together so that they have a way to share what they are learning with others who are on a similar path. The goals seek to provide information and make communication accessible. They seek to break down structures that isolate ministry and the people who minister. These changes open the door for engagement and transformation as people discover how the Holy Spirit is at work around them and in the lives of others; as they discover how the Holy Spirit may be moving in their own lives and opening doors before them.

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