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A mission of mutual inconveniencing

 

It’s like the psalmist says: ‘You have set my feet in a broad place’

by Michael N. Jagessar | Mission Crossroads

Celebrating community at Vine Church Ilford, one of 1,500 congregations in the United Reformed Church in the United Kingdom. (Photo by Michael N. Jagessar)

LOUISVILLE — The church doesn’t have a mission. Church is mission, embodying God’s “fullness of life” economy in Christ for all and living this out in partnership.

While a Caribbean “multiple hybrid belonger,” I am at home in the United Reformed Church (URCUK), actively involved in the global and intercultural work of our mission department. The “world,” in all of its diversity, is everywhere! Linking global, intercultural and missional is significant.

“Coming out” as a multicultural church in 2005 evolved from the URC’s story of formation in 1972. While this confessional declaration has biblical/ theological warranty, our uniting, reforming, conciliar, nonconforming and marginal characteristics drove the public declaration. In practice, though, our operational models struggled to throw off patronizing, male, pale, stale and hetero-normative habits. Our good intentions risked being stuck to a recognition of the presence of multiplicity with little or no interaction beyond one’s own group. For transformation to happen and for us to move beyond a diminished sense of belonging together around a Jesus way table, we need a larger picture than each of our own. Hence, our deeper commitment to “multicultural church, intercultural habit.” In our missional life, we committed to work together toward creating intercultural spaces and modeling intercultural habits.

Both a habit and a method, intercultural mission reminds me of the Psalmist’s declaration: “You have set my feet in a broad place” (Psalm 31). We struggle, though, to live out this spaciousness and the opportunities it provides for our dance of faith and faithfulness — of constantly turning, moving, finding new directions. We become easily stuck to default ways of operating. Intercultural mission is a call to get unstuck — moving backward, forward, outside and “limboing” into exciting in-between spaces in our border-crossing and transgressing journeys. Intercultural mission must also recognize, expose, analyze and redeploy power and privilege, as belonging is renegotiated in the context of our multiplicity. Becoming intercultural renders all of us in need of becoming mutually inconvenienced. We are invited to be displaced, to move out of our comfort/fear zones and our narrow ways of thinking and living and to move into the generous and transgressive way of an economy of full life for all.

Intercultural mission thrives through gracious mutuality in giving and receiving. It is about full participation of all and redistribution of resources. For the URC, the challenge remains that of mutual inconveniencing for the sake of others and God’s economy of full life for all. Can an intercultural habit (a way of being/ living) renew our missional calling and open up ways for or through some challenging conversations we urgently need to have? I think so. Neighbors are waiting to partner with us!

The Rev. Dr. Michael N. Jagessar is responsible for the work of Global and Intercultural Ministries of the United Reformed Church.

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This article is from the Spring 2019 issue of “Mission Crossroads” magazine, which is printed and mailed free to subscribers within the U.S. three times a year by Presbyterian World Mission and also available online at pcusa.org/MissionCrossroads.


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