Chaplaincy and Mission-shaped Church

02 November 2006


From the Revd Victoria Slater

Sir, — I was glad to read your report concerning Professor John Hull’s response to Mission-shaped Church ( News, 17 February). Professor Hull is reported as saying, "We looked for a mission-shaped Church, but what we found was a Church-shaped mission." This echoes my own experience.

I have been a health-care chaplain for many years. Theologically, this work rests on the premise that all people are made in God’s image and are beloved of God. God’s mission, in which we share, is to all people. The work is to meet people in their need, to listen to them, and, if appropriate, to make further response to their need in a way that reveals God’s love and commitment to them, whatever their beliefs or life situation.

Over the past couple of years, I have worked to develop the idea for a Centre for Wellbeing. This was to provide a space where people who are searching for wholeness and meaning in their lives could have their need acknowledged and their search for authentic ways of living affirmed and supported, without the requirement that they first accede to a particular set of beliefs, practices, or way of being.

That kind of commitment may or may not evolve: what needs to come first is the commitment to listening to people where they are in their journey and to entering into genuine dialogue with them.

This project was not seen as a "fresh expression" of church or as falling within that remit. At one level, of course it was not a "fresh" expression of church: such engagement stands at the heart of the Church’s mission in the world. For the increasing numbers of people who do not attend church, but who struggle to make sense of life, God’s love is frequently revealed not through preaching, but through meeting people in their need, and by engaging with them in genuine and open dialogue.

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