TWO-HUNDRED-YEAR-OLD Anglican mission agencies do not post their own card games to the Church Times office very often.
So when the Church Mission Society’s (CMS’s) “Mission Is . . . The Big Question?” landed in the post bag, three reporters and the editor decided that the only way to respond was to play a round in their lunch hour.
After considerable confusion over how exactly the rules worked, we set to playing the game over pizza in a local pub.
The aim was to create statements which begin “Mission is. . .” by adding in cards containing fragments such as “Praying with . . .”, “Making a . . .”, or “A school”.
The intention of the game — created by CMS as just one part of a wider advertising campaign, Mission Is — was to get the Church thinking more broadly about what mission might look like today, the charity said.
CMS’s executive leader, Philip Mounstephen, explained: “All of God’s people are called to join in God’s mission; yet we suspect many people’s narrow definition of what ‘mission’ really means is a major contributor to their hesitation about getting involved.”
With his words ringing in her ears, one reporter completed two such statements fairly quickly, which put her within touching distance of victory. To win the round she had to persuade the rest of the team that the statements were indeed accurate depictions of two kinds of mission.
“Mission is . . . living with . . . people you don’t like”. After some debate, the others concluded that this was indeed a type of mission. But it was the second statement that caused hackles to rise: “Mission is . . . giving . . . a cake.” Despite protestations, the rest of the table, after heated discussion, voted that this was overly vague and could not count as a type of missionary activity. The round continued.
CHURCH TIMESDeciphering mission: some of the cards from the CMS gamePerhaps the most engaging, if least Christian, part of the card game was action cards, which could be deployed to attack other players, interrupt the flow of the game, and even steal cards from other people’s hands.
The editor, in particular, showed no compunction in playing such cards, especially targeting one reporter who seemed to be making early headway.
Many of these action cards featured groan-inducing punning slogans, including “Go fishin’ for mission,” and “Don’t ask for per-mission”. The most concerning one, however, teetered on the brink of spiritual abuse by forcing a selected player to miss the next go because “God had called them to make everyone some tea.”
The game reached its conclusion when another reporter constructed two new statements, unimpeachable in their missionary zeal: “Mission is . . . praying . . . everyday” and “Mission is . . . visiting . . . prisoners”.
Feedback from the group on the experience was mixed. One said the game could lead to helpful conversations about what counted as mission; others criticised the poorly worded instructions, which took more than ten minutes to decipher.
“It’s just one opinion, isn’t it,” one reporter said. “Mission for each person might be different from one place to another.” Another felt as if the game veered towards becoming too accusatory, and reflected on how, at one point, she had been required to tell the group “what might be keeping them from being more involved in mission”.
“It would only work in certain contexts,” a third concluded, before quietly damning with faint praise: “It’s more of a deanery synod away-day kind of game, isn’t it?”
The seriousness of CMS’s intentions could be called into question, however. On the back of the box of cards is this quotation: “This is the best mission-themed card game I’ve ever played.” Its author? “Some guy who may or may not work at Church Mission Society”.
To order the game Mission Is, or to find out more about the wider campaign, visit www.churchmissionsociety.org/missionis.