PMC Steering Team – some thoughts on Year Two

Before the June cluster meeting for PMC Andrew Gear of the diocese sent out the documents that would be core to the 2 days of meetings. On reading them my heart sank. There in black and white were the words “Introducing Phase 2 – The Steering Team will continue to introduce the 6 Missional Spiritual Practices to the congregation.”

3 of them were supposed to be familiar already.

Dwelling in the Word – familiar maybe, but not widely accepted, nor practiced.
Dwelling in the World – mentioned, but I am not too sure understood by many. It involves speaking to People of Peace.
Spiritual Discernment – Really – I don’t remember doing this!

The 3 new ones include Announcing the Kingdom of God, Hospitality and Focus for Missional Action.
The training for these was to take place on the Saturday – the day of Nigel’s priesting when none of the Steering Team would be attending cluster. I went to the Friday cluster on my own, Deiniol being involved in preparations for the priesting on Saturday. I was feeling quite depressed. Not only was I going with no idea what our Missional Adaptive Challenge was to be, but I had no confidence at all in the Steering Team’s ability to introduce and embed the 6 Missional Spiritual Practices – to tell the truth I didn’t understand what most were about, even though I had read the overview of them contained in the notes.

By the end of breakfast, I was feeling a little better. Speaking to the others, no-one had a defined Missional Adaptive Challenge. Phew! We weren’t the only ones then. Then came the start of the day and the inevitable Dwelling in the Word. A new passage. Gone was the familiar and often comforting Luke. In was the passage from 2 Corinthians 4.1-12 Where did my attention linger? Well, I didn’t get past verse 1: “Therefore, since it is by God’s mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart.” A message to me? A kick in the teeth to say “Stop feeling sorry for yourself and get on with it.”? It spoke volumes. OK, I left that day with still no idea what most of the 6 practices entailed, but I did feel happier in myself.

Over the summer things started to fall into place. Deiniol planned to relaunch Dwelling in the Word in the autumn. It was also to be introduced as a spiritual practice in all meetings – PCC, Standing Committee, Ministry Team Leaders’ get-togethers, to name just a few. The more you do it the more you begin to see the value of it – allowing a piece of scripture, God’s word, to talk to you, and having the chance to listen to what it is saying both to you, and to others. Dwelling in the World and meeting people of peace seemed to be happening without any real conscious effort – the Yoga teacher who finds a feeling of warmth, love and acceptance in the church building and would love to help wherever she can in our future ventures to give something back to the community; the chance encounter with a new neighbour who works in a local radio station and has offered an on-air interview to promote our activities; the couple who, although already helping at a food bank in Aylesbury, longed to have one closer to home that they could get involved with and who just happened to come into our church on the Sunday we were asking for volunteers to come for training so that we can set up a food bank distribution centre of our own. The realisation that we had encountered Corporate Spiritual Discernment last year – that was what the interviews, timeline event and the chance to discuss it all at the soup lunch was all about – recognising where we are and making spiritual decisions together to form a Christian community within God’s mission. On a more personal level it also involves looking around us, seeing where God is at work and finding a way to join in. Hospitality – this is something that most of us would say our church is very good at, but hospitality involves not only giving but also receiving it, and that we may not do so well. Deiniol is planning to run the suggested set of meetings as the Lent course next year. Announcing the Kingdom of God is probably less complicated than I originally thought it was. Basically, God is present and active in the world today, now. What have you seen, and who can you tell about it? The three people of peace mentioned earlier are just 3 examples of God at work here, now, working for good and willing to help us be active in God’s plan. We need to acknowledge it, and them. Focus for Missional Action involves not using up all our energies in trying to do lots of good things but focussing energy and attention on a specific missional activity.

During the course of the October Saturday afternoon cluster we were told a story by one of the delivery team about her son when he was at infant school. (I have made the names fictional) As in many infant schools there was a Friendship Wall – somewhere to go and stand when you don’t have anyone to play with. Her son, Adam, while playing a game with his friends, noticed a boy, X, standing by the Friendship Wall. He went over and invited X to come and play with them. X accepted the invitation and joined in with them. When Adam got home he told his Mum what he had done. “What was his name?” she asked. “No idea!” was the reply “But he was great at playing the game! We asked him if he would join us again and he’s said yes!” Mum then said to him, “So, you did what Jesus asked and showed kindness to a stranger.” Adam apparently looked puzzled for a while, then as realisation hit, smiled back and said, “Yes. Yes, I did, didn’t I?”

The point of this story – Dwelling in the World – finding someone to join in with you and your activities, X was an unexpected asset to the game, a Person of Peace. Hospitality – Adam asking X to join in with them, and X accepting the invitation. Announcing the Kingdom – Mum seeing that Adam had befriended a stranger, brought it to his attention that that was what Jesus would have done and applauded the act. Spiritual Discernment – Mum, seeing God’s love in Adam’s actions and Adam’s realisation that he was instrumental in carrying out God’s work.
Such a simple story, but after all the angst about the Spiritual Practices being difficult to understand and therefore potentially unachievable suddenly, they start to come alive and are achievable. We can all do similar things, relate what we are doing to God’s purpose and plans and tell first ourselves, and then others about it.

The Diocesan PMC Delivery Team have come up with a postcard which we will try to get copies of. It has 6 simple questions which they suggest we ask ourselves every day. They are:

Whose hospitality have I received today?
What’s God saying to me in the Bible today?
Who have I noticed and met today?
What have I noticed God doing today and who can I tell?
What have I said no to, so I can say yes?
What’s God up to here?

These are the 6 Spiritual Practices in a nutshell. I now feel more positive as we move through this second year of PMC. I have not lost heart.

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