Wilson-Hartgrove Shares Insights into Local Mission, ‘Moral Revival’
“Reconstructing imagination for the mission of the Church is the important work we are called to do now,” said author and activist Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove at a workshop for “Mission at Work.” The workshop was held at the Cathedral of St. Paul in Burlington on October 1 and brought together over two dozen leaders from Episcopal Churches in the Diocese of Vermont. Wilson-Hartgrove drew on his experience in leading a local community in Durham, NC to engage in Christian mission as well his work with the Rev. Dr. William Barber in the “Moral Monday” campaigns for social justice in North Carolina that have garnered significant national attention.
In a wide ranging discussion, the participants began in worship from Common Prayer, a worship resource developed by Wilson-Hartgrove and Shane Claiborne. Wilson-Hartgrove noted that as Christians we now live in a world with many neighbors who are not in the Church, and that now our task is to build communities of justice that extend to those outside the walls. He said that our task is to reconstruct our imagination of mission to be both Christian and public, and this is accomplished through listening to our communities. He quotes noted Christian community development specialist John Perkins who said, “Perhaps in the past we have over-evangelized the world too lightly.”
As a particular example of ways to listen to the community, Wilson-Hartgrove held up Asset Based Community Development, known best as “ABCD.” This process can be employed to find the gifts and uncover movements in the neighborhood that provide great opportunities for mission. He spoke of the example of the Broadway United Methodist Church in Indianapolis, Indiana, and the pastor’s decision to employ a “community listener” to hear the stories in the community and help match up their outreach efforts with innovative programs in their neighborhood. This congregation has been very successful in their efforts to build, “Economy, Community and Mutual Delight.” He explained that true mission is this sharing of the “Good News” that is the story of Jesus and understanding it in terms of our own local context.
The discussion concluded with the example of the “Moral Mondays” campaign, bringing a moral revival to North Carolina. Wilson-Hartgrove told of the development of “Moral Fusion Organizing” reaching out in an intentional listening campaign and bringing together a large coalition into a new framework to advocate together for the most excluded citizens of North Carolina. One of the participants noted that a tribute to Shimon Peres was, “History is not made by cynics but by realists who are unafraid to dream” and suggested that this should characterize our approach to Local Mission in the Diocese of Vermont.