On February 21-23, 2013, the 117th Annual Convention of the Diocese of Lexington was held at the Hilton Hotel in Lexington. So in lieu of my usual sermon on February 24th, I shared the following highlights of this year’s convention. Our convention is a yearly event where the clergy and elected deputies from all of our parishes meet together to conduct the business of the diocese. The theme of this year’s convention was the Five Marks of Mission. For several years the Episcopal Church and other members of the wider Anglican Communion have used the Five Marks of Mission to give parishes and dioceses around the world a practical set of guidelines to shape and measure our ministry and mission activities.
On Friday morning, we began our convention by sharing Morning Prayer together. And then, Bishop Doug Hahn opened our convention, in which 31 congregations, 43 clergy, and 117 deputies were present. In Bishop Doug’s address to the convention, he expressed his gratefulness and excitement about his first 70 days as our new bishop and shared a brief overview of his activities during this time. He explained that we are entering into a “season of discernment” as a community. And, he described our journey together as being a partnership, depending upon one another to discern where the Holy Spirit is leading us. Our work together will be guided by the Five Marks of Mission in order to strengthen our parishes in the areas of stewardship, Christian education, ministry of the laity, and congregational leadership. Regarding the structure and finances of the Diocese, he indicated the Diocese will be developing a deliberate strategic plan for the next 3-5 years. He will be appointing a Blue Ribbon Committee to determine the most effective way to utilize our time and treasure. He ended his address with a quote from William James, a famous philosopher and psychologist, “Three things in human life are important: Be kind, be kind, be kind.”
The Bishop recognized 3 new clergy who have joined our diocese and 3 clergy have been ordained since last convention. Then, after a break, we were divided into 5 groups to discuss the Five Marks of Mission, which are a set of guidelines to help evaluate our ministries and measure their effectiveness. After reading and reflecting upon various passages of scripture that corresponded to each mark of mission, we were asked to share how the Five Marks were reflected in the life of our parishes and the diocese and what were some other ways we could more fully live into these marks of mission. The following are a few examples of what we learned.
Mark 1: Proclaiming the Good News of the Kingdom. This mark was viewed from the lens of welcoming new comers through good signage and parking, personal invitations to church activities in addition to worship, offering social events, such as creative art, musical, or literary events for the larger community or providing classes for younger people, and studying and practicing the concept of radical hospitality. Other examples were distributing free bags of lunches outside the local courthouse or imposing ashes on Ash Wednesday outside to the general public. For in Chapter 5 of the Gospel of Luke, Jesus told his disciples, they needed to cast our nets broadly in order to catch some fish (Luke 5:1-11).
Mark 2: Teaching, baptizing and nurturing new believers. We affirmed the importance of lifetime formation through Bible study, book clubs, and inquirers classes. Several churches were joining with other Episcopal churches and other community churches for projects, study groups or worship services. For we find in Ephesians, God in Christ equipped the saints for the work of ministry and God intended us to be “formed into mature personhood measured by the fullness of Christ (Ephesians 4:11-13).”
Mark 3: To respond to human need by loving service. Many examples were given about feeding the poor, caring to the sick, tending the dying, and visiting those in prison. The clergy in Northern Kentucky are working together on ministry projects and it has transformed the way these churches minister to their communities. They encouraged clergy to work with other clergy in their surrounding area. Other ideas also mentioned working together with other churches, such as our Ecumenical Noonday Holy Week Services and Vacation Bible School. The Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 25, reminds us that in these everyday acts of kindness to “the least of these” we are doing nothing less than encountering the living Christ (Matthew 25: 31-46).
Mark 4: Seeking to transform unjust social structures of society. This mark of mission is a measure of how well we do in changing society through our advocacy for social justice, such as abused woman, poverty, illiteracy. Ideas were shared about the variety of ways parishes are reaching out to those in need through feeding programs, training nurses and others in congregation to do CPR and simple health screenings, hosting AA/NA, Ala-non programs, and adopting an elementary school to provide weekend backpacks filled with food for children in need.
Mark 5: Striving to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth. Nearly every congregation is doing some form of recycling. Some creative ideas were to put the worship bulletins on an app for cell phones, repairing and providing energy efficient homes in their community, using regular plates and cups rather than plastic ones, going paperless for parish newsletters and bulletins, and starting a community garden and giving the produce to the local food bank. We are all called to be good stewards of all of God’s creation.
As I heard about the wonderful ministries already being done throughout the parishes of our diocese, I was reminded of the many ways in which the members of Ascension are living into the Five Marks of Mission through our varied outreach programs. This opportunity to dialogue with members of other parishes may have planted seeds that will germinate into new ministries in our parishes and the wider diocesan community. Together, those Five Marks of Mission remind us that it takes the whole Body of Christ to engage the whole Mission of God.
On Saturday after Morning Prayer, we held elections for Executive Council and Standing Committee. And, several appointments were made which included my being appointed Ecumenical Officer for another year. This year’s Diocesan Annual Budgets were passed. You can find details of the budgets on the Diocesan webpage. Then, we voted on two resolutions. The first Resolution (R1), which changed the status of St. James Episcopal Church, Prestonsburg, from a Parish to a Mission congregation, passed. The second Resolution (R2), which called for a review and revision of the current structure of congregational assessments, was amended to become a part of the Bishop’s Blue Ribbon Committee to study the structure of the mission and ministry of the Diocese of Lexington. This committee will make recommendations to the Bishop and Diocese at next year’s Diocesan Convention.
The Silent Auction for Youth Mission and Ministry raised $3450. Our Silent Auction basket of goodies for St. Agnes House was purchased for $150. In response to a bet between several clergy and the Rev. Corky Carmichael, the convention raised $2100 for the University of the South at Sewanee and Saturday, the Rev. Corky Carmichael wore a black cassock and beret. In summary, I feel so blessed to among so many gifted and talented people, particularly at Ascension, who are so committed to the ministry and mission of the Church.