The annual Mission Studies Day, co-sponsored by CTE’s Mission Research Network and the Mission Studies special interest group of the British and Irish Association for Practical Theology, took place on 12 May at Queen’s Foundation in Birmingham. After a hiatus of two years because of the pandemic, the opportunity to be together in person to consider new perspectives on mission was especially rewarding!
“There is a cross in every resurrection. Is there a resurrection in every cross?” (Theologian, Stanley Samartha)
Beginning by referencing the “Saturday people,” those who dwell in that space between the lamentations of Good Friday and the joy of Easter Sunday, Rev Dr Peniel Rajkumar, Global Theologian at USPG, offered a keynote presentation on the theme “Mission and Lament.” His paper explored the transformative potential of the grief of the oppressed. The missiological implication of lament, he argued, is the possibility to make the ‘inconvenient’ truths about injustice known. When the lament of the oppressed is heard it can turn into solidarity which can then turn into justice. Private grief transformed into public action opens up the possibility of resurrection for every cross.
In response to the keynote presentation, Dr Eve Parker reflected on “Mission and Joy.” Too swift a movement from lament to joy, she argued, risks masking injustice and oppression. The joy we seek, and indeed the mission to which we are called, must be something rooted in grief and the revelation of too often silenced narratives. When joy is a communal act of resistance it is not hollow. Rather, originating in the voices of the oppressed, it is a weapon capable of dismantling injustice and oppression.
Further papers were presented by Dr Heather Major on “Imprecation: An Appropriate Missional Response to Trauma;” Dr Frog Orr-Ewing on “Into the Wild: Lament and Winter;” and Dr Tim Davy on “Mission, Lament and the Book of Job.” Common to each presentation was an affirmation of the potency of lament for mission.
Living in the tension between lamentation and joy is a familiar space for Christians committed to the ecumenical vision. The pain of disunity can be a catalyst for a collective longing for healing and reconciliation in the Body of Christ. Yet unity in the church can’t be proclaimed too quickly; listening to what the lament of brokenness tells us can help us aspire to a depth of unity worthy of Easter Sunday joy.
Dr Natasha Klukach, Head of Strategic Church and Christian Partnerships at World Vision
The next Mission Studies Day co-sponsored by CTE and BIAPT will take place at Queen’s Foundation in May 2023.