February 5, 2016

Break Out – Find the Faith-Life connections

Our recent Vestry Papers article urged church leaders to shift their focus from “inside” to “outside,” and from church-sponsored outreach to individuals understanding themselves as “on mission” in their everyday lives. One of the ways we Christians can “get the hell out of church” (the title of the VP article) is to Break Out – to seek fresh insights as to where we each find our ministries.

Our book Radical Sending – Go to Love and Serve, features a number of first-person stories answering the question, “How do you understand the connection between your faith and the life you live every day?”

In a story from the book, artist Roger Hutchison recognizes that he can share the spiritual and creative insights he finds through his painting. As detailed in his book The Painting Table, Hutchison developed a process for releasing people’s creativity to address their pain. And as illustrated in his recently released book Under the Fig Tree, the reflective process can lead us closer to God. In sharing his creative gifts, Hutchison has harnessed the process of making art to making a ministry – a ministry that has sprung directly from his gifts and passions.

Throughout my ordained ministry, I (Fletcher) have used workplace visits to explore with people the connection between their faith and their daily lives. In being asked to explain the connection, the storytellers have become more intentional in finding ways to express that connection. So Michaelle Justice, a speech-language pathologist, sees her faith embodied in her recognition of her baptismal promise to “respect the dignity of every human being.” And she finds herself fed spiritually, by her patients’ courage: “ … though I guide my patients through their therapy, it is their strength and determination that feed my faith.” (Read Justice’s full story here.)

Philip Brooks, whose sermon is included in the Radical Sending appendix, calls himself a “money changer” – a mortgage broker, working in an industry where, as he puts it, “everybody is looking for the deal…. I specialize in seniors housing and healthcare finance. After negotiating, cajoling, and even threatening, the end result of a deal provides housing and healthcare services for old people – our parents and grandparents, rich or poor. Caring for the elderly is complex. It requires money, financial engineering, and sophisticated business structures. But looking through all this complexity, I now see my efforts meet two of God’s basic laws – love thy father and thy mother and love thy neighbors as thy self.” (Read Brooks' story here.) 

A workplace visit with Linda Armstrong started a reflection process that has continued to bear fruit for her. She writes, “I confess that as I strive to practice my faith daily, it is something I don’t think about often enough but care about very much. I frequently fail but I hope that I will remember to be faithful to the work given me to do. My prayers at work are usually of gratitude, but more often to center myself in the present, to curb my anxiety, to temper my anger, to subdue my frustration and keep trying. … For me, my faith is practiced by acting with integrity, forgiveness and with hope for a better world. The faith statement, for me, is that I keep trying to do my part.” (Read Armstrong's story here.)

How do you incarnate your faith in the work you do in your daily life? Has your congregation helped you make that connection, and given you a place to tell that story? How can you encourage your faith community to serve as a base camp – a place to be equipped and to share your experience – for your daily ministry? Breaking Out can be your first step on that journey.

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