October 31, 2016

The Episcopal Church Dismisses You

A few weeks ago we gathered in Alexandria, Va., for the Missional Voices Oneday gathering, where we focused on liturgy, music, and the missional church. Dr. Jim Farwell, the liturgy professor at VTS, discussed the intersection of mission and worship. “There is no such thing as a ‘missional liturgy,’” he said. “Because all liturgy is missional.”

What the Church does (or should do) is all missional. But I think too often we forget that.

In my previous career, I helped law firms “brand” themselves. So, I tend to look at all organizations in that same way. What is The Episcopal Church’s brand? Slowly, it is morphing to be the Jesus Movement. Praise God for that. But for many, the thought that comes to mind is “The Episcopal Church Welcomes You.”

And if you look at the “mission statements” of individual parishes, many talk about welcoming. Or hospitality. Or inclusivity. Or any number of great things. Our parishes indeed should strive to be places of welcome, and inclusion, and hospitality. But is that our focus? Is that our mission?


Those are core values that all parishes should strive for. Those values build a dynamic vision for a parish. But it isn’t our mission. Because, I’d argue, our parishes (and the Church) don’t have a mission.

God has a mission; and God’s mission has a Church.

The catechism would disagree with me slightly, but I think my argument follows the BCP’s logic. In the catechism we read that “[t]he mission of the Church is to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.” Restoration of all people is God’s mission, and we have the privilege and the opportunity to help.

Everyone should be welcome in our buildings and at our services– please don’t misunderstand me. But, at the end of our worship, we aren’t welcomed. We’re dismissed.

At the close of our liturgy, after we have gathered in the name of the Lord, proclaimed and responded to the Word of God, prayed for the world and the Church, shared the peace, prepared the table, made Eucharist, and broken the bread, we do one final thing. We share the gifts of God.

When what we do in the building is over, the deacon stands up and dismisses us. We are told to leave. We are told to get up and out of our seats and go share the gift of God’s love and peace and healing with our neighbors. That isn’t welcoming, but that is missional.

So go. Get out of here. And go forth into the world rejoicing in the power of the Spirit.

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