Clara Goyton, a member of Mission Park Christian Church and a seminarian at UCC-related Howard University School of Divinity, both in Washington, D.C., learns about missionary life from the Rev. Lawrence Gilley, who, with his wife, Carol, served 38 years in southern Africa. W. Evan Golder photo.
First-ever event draws missionaries, local church members, seminarians and some UCC national staff together to talk about the role of missionaries around the world.
"It is too light a thing to be concerned only with ourselves and our own communities. We need to be concerned with the whole world." These words from Dale Bishop, Executive Minister of Wider Church Ministries, set the tone for more than 100 mission enthusiasts attending the first-ever ¡MissionWorks!, held at the UCC's Church House in Cleveland from Oct. 17-19.
Sponsored by FOCUS, the Fellowship of Continuing Understanding and Support, a voluntary support ministry of Wider Church Ministries (WCM), ¡MissionWorks! brought together missionaries, local church members, seminarians, and WCM staff and board members to excite them about the role and purpose of missionaries around the world.
"The world today is totally different from the 19th century world into which missionaries were sent," Bishop said.
(The American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions was established in 1810.)
In those days, he said, missionaries were interpreters of a world which others would never experience. Today, with globalization, we are in danger, at least on the surface, of becoming a monocultural world.
Effect of globalization
"Globalization has completely transformed what we do in mission," Bishop said. "Originally missionaries had mandates focused on conversion. Now, globalization has changed us. We no longer view groups of people as objects, but as partners."
Globalization is both a process and a project, said Bishop. As a process, it is not reversable. Oceans have disappeared; telephones, the Internet and e-mail provide instant reach around the globe.
But it is globalization as a project that should concern Christians the most, Bishop said. Globalization not only breaks down barriers but it imposes a new order, centered on the west. For example, he said, the U.S. dollar is universally accepted worldwide.
"Globalization as a process brings us together," he said. "Globalization as a project drives us further apart." Eighty percent of the world's wealth is in the hands of 20 percent of the population, Bishop said. The other 20 percent has less than one percent of the world's wealth.
"As Christians," Bishop said, "it is imperative that we witness that this is not the kind of world that God wants. God wants all of God's children to experience abundance."
Since 1967, the overseas mission programs of the UCC and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) have worked together, establishing joint and common mission offices for every region of the world. In 1995, the two denominations established a Common Global Ministries Board. Today, Global Ministries has more than 200 missionaries in 55 countries, the Rev. Julia Brown Karimu told a ¡MissionWorks! workshop. Karimu, executive for mission personnel, said that Global Ministries has 120 fully-supported missionaries, 25-30 short-term volunteers, 14 longterm volunters, eight global ministries interns and 62 overseas associates.
Participants were 'pinned'
Before departure, ¡MissionWorks! participants shared in a "pinning" ceremony, at which they received a Global Ministries lapel pin and were called to commit themselves to being global advocates.
This ritual of "pinning," common in our partner churches in southern Africa, celebrates an individual's decision to commit himself or herself to the work of evangelism and pastoral ministry in the local congregation. The pin, presented by the pastor, displays the denomination's symbol. It is worn proudly and with humility, as an outward sign of the individual's level of devotion to Christ and Christ's church.
At ¡MissionWorks!, senior missionaries pinned the 16 seminarians who, in turn, pinned the remaining participants.
After the event, many participants expressed their gratitude for the opportunity to meet missionaries from around the world. The best part was "rubbing shoulders with so many missionaries, both past and present," says the Rev. Barbara Hoig of Traverse City, Mich. Kevin Crooks of First Christian Church in Yates Center, Kansas, agrees. He liked best "listening to the missionaries and being able to sit down at dinner with them."
"Everything was great!" says Audrey Connor, a student at Vanderbilt Divinity School. "Though I will bring the story back to my school, I know so many of my classmates would also have liked to be a
Another ¡MissionWorks! is being planned for October 2004.
To "Put yourself in FOCUS" (the Fellowship of Continuing Understanding and Support), send a check for $15 annual membership or $200 life membership made out to FOCUS/ WCM to FOCUS/WCM, 700 Prospect Ave., 7th floor, Cleveland, OH 44115-1100. For a list of current missionary priority positions, visit www.globalministries.org/