By The Rev. Sarah Hedgis- Director of the Episcopal Mission Center
As the EMC team prepares to join the larger conversation about mission in the church at this weekend’s Missional Voices Conference, EMC Director, The Rev. Sarah Hedgis, reflects on what missional living means to her. What is mission to you? Check back in the coming weeks to hear about missional moments from other missional leaders in the Church and how we all fit into living out God’s mission.
A couple of years ago, I went on a church retreat. Our group decided to go on a walk through the woods. While we were walking, one of the members of our group held up her hand to signal for us to stop walking and gestured to the ground right below us.
“What do you see?” she asked. It was the end of winter and the forest was still mostly marked by decay. We looked around and began calling out: Dirt! Dead leaves! Old branches!
Our guide nodded, but then she gently brushed away all of the items we’d just named. Beneath the leaves and old sticks, there was a live tree root sticking out of the ground. We leaned in closer and saw a strip of bright moss and the tiniest plants growing out of the root. Then one of the members of our group said something that I think about a lot: Life doesn’t really let us stick with “either/or” or a this-then-that way of living. It’s all happening, all the time.
I think this is true for social justice.
Too often we think about social justice and mission as something that we do at a certain time for a certain cause or even something done only by certain people. But social justice is woven into the fabric of each of our everyday lives. Social justice has to do with the big things – like volunteering and voting – and the little things – like showing kindness to people we pass on the street and being intentional about where and how we spend our money. In the Bible, Jesus never separates how he spends time with his friends from how he tries to make the world a better place. In the Old Testament, there are a lot of very good teachings about how to do social justice, but God also sums up all of those teachings into one: love God and love your neighbors. God teaches us that if love is in every decision we made, social justice will be too.
That’s what we’re doing at the Episcopal Mission Center. This summer groups of middle and high school students will come from all over and spend a week in Philadelphia meeting new people, building relationships, learning about important social justice issues like poverty, reconnecting with God through worship and prayer, having fun, and working alongside our neighbors to ensure social justice is something everyone knows is happening all the time.
When you leave the EMC, you don’t forget or leave behind this experience; you take it with you and let it form how you live your everyday life back home. I think that this kind of living can bring real and important changes that transform our world. Let’s encounter life, together.