Posted by: Titus Presler | February 1, 2016

World Mission Sunday 2016 is coming up on Feb. 7: Resources

The Episcopal Church’s World Mission Sunday, an annual observance since 1998, is designated for the Last Sunday after the Epiphany, this year on February 7.

The rationale is that Epiphany celebrates the showing forth of the light of Christ in the world, imaged centrally in the appearance of the star that guided the Magi to Bethlehem.  Other gospel lections in Epiphanytide highlight the manifestation of Christ to the world, as in the Baptism of Jesus on Epiphany 1, the miracle of Jesus turning water into wine on Epiphany 2, and, this year, Jesus’ announcement of the content of his mission at Luke 4 on Epiphany 3.

Luke’s account of Jesus’ response to the Nazareth folks rejecting him – this year’s reading on Epiphany 4 – likewise had missional significance as Jesus noted how Elijah’s being sent to the widow of Zarephath and Naaman the Syrian being sent to Elisha for healing declared that God was at work among the peoples of the world beyond God’s chosen people Israel.

Whatever the lessons turn out to be for much of Epiphanytide, which depends the lectionary year, the theme of Christ’s glory being shown forth in the world climaxes every year with the Transfiguration of Jesus on the Last Sunday after Epiphany, which this year occurs on this coming Sunday, Feb. 7.  Jesus was transfigured by the glory of God in order that he might be strengthened to undertake his missional work’s last stage, which was to face the opposition that was building against him in Jerusalem.  Preachers this year might note that in Luke’s account it was in order to pray that Jesus went up onto a mountain and that it was ‘while he was praying’ that he was transfigured (Luke 9.28-29).  What we term ‘our mission’ or ‘the church’s mission’ is a participation in the ongoing mission of God in the world, and it is only in prayer that we are able to discern what the nature of our participation might be.

Congregations casting about for a quick way to access resources in world mission might find this list helpful:

• Blogs of Current Missionaries – These are especially illuminating and can quickly get you close to the ground of missionaries’ actual experiences.  The Global Episcopal Mission Network website has a number of current blog postings, and blogs from current Episcopal missionaries are found on the Mission Personnel page of the Episcopal Church website.  You’ll find lots of testimony to how the church’s missionaries have found their mission experiences transformational.

Articles about Current Missionaries – Articles published by Episcopal News Service about current missionaries put their work in a helpful context.

Roster of Missionaries – The roster of Episcopal Church missionaries has not been updated since March 2014, but it might still be useful for seeing if there is any current or recent missionary from your area with whom you could develop a relationship.

• The website of your own diocese, which in most cases has important material on what your diocese is doing in global mission in the Anglican Communion and beyond.  Think about inviting an international missioner from your diocese to come and speak next time he/she is home on leave.

Global Episcopal Mission Network (GEMN) website – GEMN is the network of Episcopal dioceses, parishes, organizations and individuals committed to supporting one another in enhancing and expanding Episcopalians’ participation in God’s mission globally.  The website provides a multitude of resources, including information about the upcoming global mission conference in May in Ponce, Puerto Rico, at which Presiding Bishop Michael Curry will be the keynote speaker.

“20 Quick Ways to Encourage Global Mission” – A good list available on the World Mission Sunday website.  The website has not been updated for 2016, but this is among a number of resources at the site from 2015.  Included is a video promotion about world mission that is a bit of a puff piece, but it may appeal to some audiences.

Windows on Mission – An excellent video series on Episcopal missionaries produced in 2006 by Canon Jane Butterfield for the Mission Personnel Office, with the filming and editing by filmmaker Philip Carr.  The 12 18-20-minute vignettes of Episcopal missionaries on several continents are arresting discussion-starters for parish groups, and you could choose one of them for World Mission Sunday.  Unfortunately, the series is difficult to obtain since the demise of the Episcopal Book and Resource Center, but your diocesan office may have a copy you can borrow.  The introductory video with comments by Desmond Tutu is available on YouTube here; the video of the work of the late Randall Giles in south India is available on YouTube here; and the video on the work of Mano Rumalshah in the Diocese of Peshawar, Pakistan, is available on YouTube here.  The series is available in some libraries, especially theological ones; here is the Library of Congress catalogue number: BV2575.W56.2006.

Here are several resources in which I have had a hand:

  • Going Global with God: Reconciling Mission in a World of Difference by Titus Presler – Published by Morehouse, it highlights the democratization of mission in the Episcopal Church and other mainline denominations and explores how encountering difference is central in world mission.  Includes a study guide.  (Available from Amazon.)
  • Companions in Transformation: The Episcopal Church’s World Mission in a New Century – The world mission vision statement for the church, published in 2003 by the Standing Commission on World Mission.  Includes a study guide.
  • Horizons of Mission by Titus Presler, vol. 11 in The New Church’s Teaching Series (Cowley, 2001) – The closest to a world mission handbook for Episcopalians, designed specifically for congregational study groups as well as for general readers.  Includes a study guide.  (Available from Amazon.)
  • ‘The History of Mission in the Anglican Communion’ by Titus Presler in the Wiley-Blackwell Companion to the Anglican Communion.

If you’re short on time, remember that World Mission Sunday is a moveable feast: You can observe it in Lent or Ascensiontide as well.  The important thing is to lift mission up in the life of your congregation.  A number of the resources are also very workable in multi-week programs, which you might wish to consider.



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