by Padre Michelle Staples
My grandmother used to say I’d forget my head if it was loose; and indeed there are moments in the midst of this busy life when I would say she was right. In a similar vein I am astounded to realise how easy it is, as a military chaplain, to lose sight of the realities that impact our beloved church—not simply abroad, but right here at home. As we deal with wounded soldiers, grieving families, and mission imperatives, what device have we to keep us mindful that we are a part of something bigger that belongs not simply to things eternal, but something that answers to our living out the now in a community of faith that is bigger than us? I believe that this reminder is brought to us through the Anglican Church of Canada’s Vision 2019, and the guiding practices and priorities that it gives to us as a church for this time…not for all time, but just for now.
Vision 2019 was adopted at General Synod 2010 in Halifax as a strategic plan for the Church. It was the result of a prayerful and consultative process in which the church was asked to dream and to speak its heart. We all recall those lovely pictures of the baby in a mitre—well, that baby has found his feet and is walking! In other words, those dreams, deliberations and prayers, are now shaping the way we do business. When we meet as CoGS, Vision 2019 is writ large on our hearts and, literally, on our table tops. It reminds me that this thing is bigger than me. And that is a good thing.
I recall hearing at the time of General Synod a genuine and loving concern from some quarters that we already have a strategic plan in our church. For some it is laid out quite clearly in our Prayer Book, in our understanding of Mission, and in our life lived as people of Word and Sacrament. And what was seen in Vision 2019 was an attempt, perhaps, to restate that which had no need of restatement—we know what we need to do, right? And we know how we need to do it! Surely these things are eternal. It was an attractive thought and one which meant I wouldn’t have to challenge the way I understood my role within this body as it is lived out in these days.
Then, while we were pondering the implications of this strategic plan, in the middle of General Synod’s discussion on Vision 2019, my beloved brother died. And, as I was waiting for the flights to come through to get me home, I realised that something significant in my life had passed, and I was reminded that, part of that which we are – is but dust. But dust with an incredible value and a particular and uniquely holy context. What I am seeing in Vision 2019 is that it values the particular and uniquely holy context in which we find ourselves in this beloved church of ours in Canada—a context which calls us to healing, forgiveness, and renewal, and a call to face the particular challenges of our time with courage and focus. Balanced with our understanding and reception of the Five (more recently, Six) Marks of Mission, Vision 2019 brings our focus on things eternal and things temporal into a sharp focus. It allows us to ask not only what are we about as church, but also, what, in our present context, must be done? By so doing, it allows us to serve this church at this moment in time with love, compassion, encouragement, and understanding.
For the Marks of Mission, and Vision 2019 Practices and Priorities, please see www.anglican.ca.