Gerry O’Brien

Entering a Virtuous Spiral

SUMMER IS NEARLY OVER and memories of debates in York are fading away. The first PCC meetings of the Autumn draw nearer and I hope that each parish will have on its PCC agenda a consideration of what response to make to my private members motion on World Mission Agencies.

The motion asked all PCCs to commend to the members of their electoral rolls the principle of being on the mailing list of at least one of the eleven Anglican mission agencies. The rationale is fairly simple. It is that if people receive information about mission second or third hand – or perchance come across a prayer letter from someone they don’t know, working In a place they cant pronounce, interest is likely to be fairly minimal. Without interest there will be little enthusiasm. Without enthusiasm there will be little concern. Without concern there will be little prayer. With little prayer there will be little giving.

Now if our PCCs were actively to encourage all of us to be on the mailing list of at least one of the agencies, them could be a steady drip feed of information. I don’t read much of the unsolicited mail I get, but I do tend to read the things I’ve asked for. If I give my chosen agency the opportunity to address me directly, I might discover all sorts of projects are underway which I might be moved to pray for. What is certain is that if I do not know about them, they will never find their way on to my prayer list.

Over a million people worship at Anglican churches in England every Sunday. Lower than 10% are known to mission agencies, but something like 80% are known to PCC members. PCCs therefore have a vital role in raising the profile of mission within their congregations. Today it is considered unusual to be on a mission agency’s mailing list, but we need to move from a situation where we ask whether you’re on a mailing list, to one where we ask which mailing list you are on. We need to plan our parish life with a mission dimension. A maintenance only” programme will no longer do.

The General Synod motion I proposed was designed to be practical and hassle-free. It did not ask for a committee to produce a report. It did not ask for debates in dioceses and deaneries. But it did ask PCCs to make a direct approach to their own congregations. That need not be an onerous or time-consuming task. A basic plan like this one would suffice – and also provide the PCC with a useful mission audit.

Week 1 – There is a notice in the pew sheet saying that everyone will be invited to declare an interest in one of the 11 PWM mission agencies over the following two weeks. An article on the importance and value of mission appears in the parish magazine

Week 2 – A display featuring the work of some or all of the mission agencies is mounted. Appropriate literature is made available. Local connections with particular agencies or personnel are featured. The pew sheet includes a tear off slip with space for name and address tick boxes (for each of the 11 PWM mission agencies) to say I am already on the mailing list tick boxes, as above, to say “I would like to join the Mailing list”

Week 3 – The tear-off slip used in Week 2 is reprinted In the pewsheet. when all the slips have been collected, the PCC secretary could Inform each of the 11 agencies of the names and addresses to add to their mailing lists. It might also be instructive to inform the missionary committee (if them is one) or the PCC of the figures so they have some basic data on where mission interest in the parish lies.

If upwards of 50% of the electoral roll register no interest at all there is clearly an agenda for action. I believe that information leads to interest, then concern, then prayer and then giving. Its what I described as a virtuous spiral in the Synod debate.

But if you are still thinking that we should start with an appeal to giving, think again. We have been doing that for years and the total

annual income for all 11 PWM mission agencies from all sources – individuals, parishes, trusts, investment income and legacies could be matched by everyone in church last Sunday giving just 35p per week, by deed of covenant. You would think we could do better than that in a Decade of Evangelism, wouldn’t you?

Gerry O’Brien is a lay member of the General Synod. He works for the lntercontinental Church Society, one of the 11 Anglican mission agencies. Details of all eleven mission agencies can be had by contacting Partnership for World Mission at Partnership House, 157, Waterloo Road, London SE1 8XA Tel: 0171 928 8681 Fax: 0171 633 0185. The missionary societies involved are: Church Army; Church’s Ministry among the Jews; Church Missionary Society; Crosslinks; Intercontinental Church Society; Mid-Africa Ministry (CMS); Missions to Seamen, Mothers’ Union; South American Missionary Society; SPCK; USPG.