By the time you are reading this, Diocesan Synod 2023 will be over, but our discernment as a Church is always ongoing. One cannot deny there are many challenges we face as we contemplate our mission to make the Gospel known in our own time.
Amongst the topics on the Synod agenda this year, one that is close to many hearts is the issue of homelessness. It is no surprise that there has been and continues to be much discussion around how we might contribute to the needs of the world in tangible and measurable ways such as food programs, temporary shelters, housing development, and other supportive corporal ministries.
Another form of ministry which is less talked about and not as easy to measure is sacramental and pastoral presence. This is the core work of Fr Matthew and the SOI team. From experience, I can report that it is not always as easy to tell whether you are making a difference in this ministry as it would be if you were, say, distributing sandwiches. However, I can also say with conviction that it is absolutely crucial – at least as much so as corporal mercies. Belonging is one of the primary ways those who suffer from trauma can finally begin to heal, and this takes a lot of time, trust, and patience. It can be hard to measure but is not without reward. I have met many extraordinary people who frequently remind me of the goodness of humanity, and in whose eyes, smiles, and compassion I see the love of Christ reflected back at me on a daily basis.
There are things that only YOU can do. The mission field for each of us is different. Maybe it is your family; your workplace; your apartment building; your neighbourhood. We tend to underestimate the power of prayer, but that is where we ought to begin, for we can do nothing without God’s help. Pray for people by name (especially the difficult ones!). Be ready for the Holy Spirit to show you opportunities to express the love, compassion, and presence of Christ to a stranger, an enemy, or a friend. Perhaps you might spend a few extra moments really being present and listening to someone’s story. These are things we can all do; this is how we can be the Church in the world, today.