Gathering at God's Table: The five marks of mission
in the feast of faith
Katharine Jefferts Schori
Church Times Bookshop £11.70 (Use code
BETWEEN 1984 and 1990, the Anglican Consultative Council
established a set of imperatives for the part the Church should
play in the world. These Five Marks of Mission are now widely
discussed: to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom; to teach,
baptise, and nurture new believers; to respond to human need by
loving service; to seek to transform unjust structures of society,
to challenge violence of every kind, and to pursue peace and
reconciliation; to strive to safeguard the integrity of creation,
and sustain and renew the life of the earth.
In this attractively written book, the Presiding Bishop of the
Episcopal Church in the United States offers a large and diverse
set of illustrations of the Five Marks of Mission as they are lived
out in the local situation. Each of the five sections (one for each
Mark) combines vignettes from the communities that Katharine
Jefferts Schori has visited, with reflections on international and
global responsibility for political stability, food security,
stewardship of the environment, health, education, and the
eradication of poverty.
Although most of the stories describe Episcopal parishes in the
US, readers elsewhere will not struggle to identify with the
grass-roots responses to homelessness, unemployment, racial
injustice, and natural disasters which they depict. Each short
chapter ends with a challenge headed "Making Your Mark". These take
the form of deceptively simple single questions, but they do not
leave many hiding places for individuals or communities who take
them to heart.
What differentiates the book from celebrations of the local is
its insistence on a larger theological vision of a healed and
restored world. This is encapsulated in the image of the banquet
that runs through the canon of scripture, carrying with it the
confidence that there can, in all senses, be enough for all. It is
that over-arching determination to see the eschatological
connection between Church and world that would make it an excellent
addition to a study programme, or even a confirmation course.
There is one puzzling silence. In a work by the Primate of a
Church of the Anglican Communion riddled by high-profile divisions,
no clues are offered to how the Church is to address its own
fractures and failures in relation to its desire to serve the
world. The Church of England could ask itself the same questions.
As there are five blank pages at the end of the book, perhaps that
is an invitation.
Dr Bridget Nichols is Lay Chaplain to the Bishop of