Sharing Our Mission Stories:
A Way to Participate in a Mission Anniversary
By Elliott Wright
Each of us has a mission story. Every congregation, church-related school and individual Christian has a story, a history, of how our faith began, was nurtured and grew. We write our denomination’s collective mission history as we share those accounts.
United Methodists in 2018 and 2019 have a unique opportunity to celebrate and contribute to our shared mission story. We’re observing the 200th anniversary of the founding of the first missionary organization in the U.S. Methodist lineage. The Missionary Society of the Methodist Church was established on April 5, 1819. The bicentennial of this initial forerunner of today’s General Board of Global Ministries provides occasion for all United Methodist local churches, institutions and individuals to tell their mission stories.
We can share those stories on the internet. The bicentennial celebration website http://methodistmission200.org is designed to bring together profiles of missionaries, mission volunteers, mission projects and individual believers worldwide. Through our lives and programs, we tell the big story of our involvement yesterday and today in God’s mission of spreading faith, hope and love.
Maybe you want to tell how a family member, a pastor or a Sunday school teacher opened your life to God’s grace? That’s the start of your mission story. Or, perhaps it was a mission trip, or multiple trips, that introduced you to the global outreach of our “connected” church. Your personal spiritual journey is a mission story and yours to tell.
You may have a relative or a church member who was, or is, a missionary. You can write a personal account of what knowing that person has meant to your family, local church or community.
The mission roots of a congregation or a school may be a bit more difficult to discover and report, but such histories already exist in many cases, even if they are hidden in fading publications on dusty church library shelves.
Do you know your local church’s mission story?
If you have an online historical sketch or brief printed history, check with your pastor or local mission chair and add it to the bicentennial mission data base. Submit your stories to http://methodistmission200.org/mission-stories/submit-your-story.
If you don’t have an existing summary, now is the perfect time to organize a group to write a history of your church and its mission roots. The United Methodist Church provides tools to help with this work. “How to Write a Local Church History” by Dr. Frederick E. Maser is available from the General Commission on Archives and History, either in print for sale or internet download for free. See online at http://gcah.org/resources/how-to-write-a-local-church-history.
Knowing the mission story of your church can be an enriching spiritual experience. It provides a sense of both local and global identity. As United Methodists, we are never alone in mission or in life. God is with us, and we are one in the Holy Spirit who enlivens our witness and work.