"When we focus on connection, grace happens"
By Ellen Doster, EMC Summer Program Chaplain
Being raised in an evangelical tradition, I was given a specific idea of what the word mission meant. Mission trips and missionaries, the Great Commission. Yet it wasn’t until college that I went on my first mission-anything. My freshman and sophomore year, I opted for an alternative spring break. Instead of mission trips, they were called outreach trips, and while they did not have a specifically religious focus, the fact that our school chaplain led our trip gave it a distinct missional feeling.
I was apprehensive at first, for a number of reasons. I didn’t know any of the other students going on the trip. I’d never stayed in a youth hostel before. The organization we would mainly be working with was the Gay Men’s Health Crisis (I was not “out” at this point.) We arrived, and I felt in over my head. I kept worrying that I would say the wrong thing or not know what to say at all. I had been slowly pulling away from my early definition of mission, and I was worried that at some point, someone would start preaching.
But it never happened. We helped cook and serve meals. We helped put together materials for a fundraiser to benefit AIDS research. We sat with the clients and got to know them, and they got to know us. Even though I was only there for a short time, I will never forget those conversations. When I think of the word mission, I think about relationships, about how we connect with those we are reaching out to and how we invite them to us. When we focus on these connections, grace happens. Fear and worry are pushed out and God’s love is allowed to come in. No preaching required.
Ellen will be serving as lay chaplain at the Episcopal Mission Center this summer, and she is excited to explore the meaning of mission in worship.