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Mission is a doing word

Feeding, clothing, housing, advocating, counselling, advising, preaching, renovating, providing, sponsoring, panel beating – these were a few of the faces of mission evident on Sunday, 29 November, as approximately 300 people gathered in a Kensington industrial estate/art gallery to celebrate the Australia Southern Territory’s inaugural ‘Festival of Mission’.

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Holding community meals with lonely, marginalised Australians; and advocating on behalf of them to governments.

Seeking foster carers to take in children and young people; and paying utilities bills and feeding hungry people.

Advocating for the Salvos’ care for asylum seekers and immigrants; and restoring old cars with troubled teenage boys.

Preaching the love of Jesus; offering cupcakes and pastoral care to sex workers; and providing clothing to whomsoever.

Housing homeless people; and sponsoring kids overseas, the better to feed, educate and house them. 

The above activities were a few of the many faces of Salvation Army mission represented on Sunday, 29 November, when approximately 300 people gathered in a Kensington industrial estate/art gallery to celebrate the Australia Southern Territory’s inaugural ‘Festival of Mission’.

‘It’s a miracle that Aboriginal people have survived in this land,’ said Brooke Prentis, as she commenced the formal spoken presentations on behalf of her fellow Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.

‘It’s God’s miracle,’ she added, ‘and God has left us here in this country for a reason. God is up to something and I want to be a part of it.’ 

People ate, sat to listen to speakers, and walked through the varied and many mission stalls that added to the splendour of the occasion. They were drawn into an ongoing conversation on what mission means, who it serves and how it is best pursued.

‘Our hope will be a louder voice than our apathy,’ thundered performance poet Joel McKerrow, ‘crying for this world to change…

‘Faith is not about Sunday morning but drawing a line in the sand…in the broken world we give ourselves to suffering humanity,’ he declared.

The theme of broken is prevalent. ‘I’ve got a feeling you might be needing something from me…in brokenness we find connections,’ sang Mezz Coleman.

‘It’s time we found a new way,’ she continued. ‘I choose today to walk away from the dark shadows…who am I to judge my brothers?’

The inspiration behind the event, territorial commander Commissioner Floyd Tidd, told e-connect that the festival was commenced because ‘I am convinced that “Mission matters most”, and as the prophet Isaiah tells us, ‘God is doing new things.” As God does so, why do we not perceive his innovations?

‘We hope this kind of event creates a climate of agitation and holy discontent. The question of what God is doing is best addressed in dialogue with each other.’

The commissioner’s desire for holy discontent was matched by several speakers.

‘We need to say to government, about asylum seekers, “You need to stop doing what you are doing”,’ said Moriah Hurst from interchurch protest group Loves Makes A Way (a group that has included the participation and arrest of two Salvation Army officers). ‘We need a change in policy in Australia…Jesus calls us to non-violent action.’

Another such voice came from Major Brendan Nottle, who presented a powerfully surreal, satirical bedtime story with ‘The Big Hungry Beast’. Jesus, he explained, ‘left the building….he didn’t darken the walls of the synagogue very often.’

The major called for an abandonment of power and position and a renewed foray into mission, which is best found in ‘the dark, unusual places in the community’. Heralding a new venture with the ‘Red Door movement’, combining prayer, preparation, presence, pastoral care and praxis (action), Major Nottle urged all present to ‘share your stories and encourage one another’.

Encouragement was alive and well at the inaugural festival of mission.

Territorial social justice secretary and Indigenous/multicultural ministries consultant Major Sandra Crowden was one of those encouraged, as the ‘I’ll Fight’ ( #illfight ) social media campaign reached more than 9,000 people within days of the event.

Mission: what does the word mean?
‘Mission is being real with people and connecting with them.’ – Captain Rachael Castle *  ‘Whatever Jesus is doing.’ – Captain Rowan Castle * ‘Being Jesus to the world.’ – Major Karen Elkington * ‘Love God, love neighbour – come alongside and participate in their lives, in discipleship lived for others.’ – Captain Craig Farrell * ‘Being yourself in the world.’ – Major John Farquharson * ‘Matthew 28 – Go into the world and make disciples; that sums up mission.’ – Major Gary Grant * ‘Outward connections, outward focus.’ – Brian Hallett * ‘Participating in making manifest the kingdom of God, wherever I am.’ – Captain Stuart McGifford * ‘Finding out what God’s doing in the world, then joining him.’ – Major Gregory Morgan * ‘Being the Army that God’s called us to be; loving the unlovable; being who Christ wants us to be by loving our neighbour.’ – Colonel Graeme Rigley * ‘Working to achieve God’s plan for the world, through “life in all its fullness” relationships with God.’ – Major Graham Roberts * ‘Seeing God’s kingdom on Earth.’ – Captain Catherine Spiller * ‘Joining God in what he’s doing.’ – Captain Rhys Spiller