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Mission is for everyone

David Tuohy SJ is co-author with Maria Feeny of a recently published book on discipleship and the five ‘marks of mission’ within the Anglican communion. The book, Growing in the Image and Likeness of God, is a review of the Discipleship Project involving parishes in the Church of Ireland united dioceses of Dublin and Glendalough.

David is an Ecumenical Canon in the Church of Ireland and has worked with Archbishop Michael Jackson and C of I members on educational projects. In 2015 he was asked by Archbishop Jackson to take part in his Come&C project (“come and see”). This involved facilitating parishioners in Dublin and Glendalough who had taken part in a survey on mission, commissioned by their Archbishop. Over 80% of these parishioners had responded to the survey. They then came together to reflect on it and to plan for the future in terms of a commitment to discipleship in their local parishes, inspired by the gospel vision.

In this interview with Pat Coyle of Irish Jesuit Communications, David explains the unfolding process of the Come&C project, which is the core material of his book. It was a ‘bottom-up’ project, he explains, de-clericalising the concept of mission. It was about the parishioners on the ground doing the talking and the work, reflecting on, and developing the discipleship work which they were already engaged in, laying it on firm foundations.

First the groups focused on the gospel hallmark traits of ‘welcome, worship and witness’, according to David. This in turn led them to the more fundamental guiding principles of discipleship that had been part of the Anglican communion for over 30 years. “These were the five marks of mission,” David explains, “– tell, teach, tend, transform, treasure.” He explains these principles more fully in the interview.

He also outlines the projects undertaken in different parishes as part of the concrete work of discipleship. One parish got involved in cross-community work supporting families affected by addiction, supporting them in whatever ways possible. A series of pilgrimages around Glendalough, organised by another parish, proved very successful at a number of levels, including the spiritual and ecological.

Another part of the whole process, according to David, was an ongoing, critical evaluation of what worked and what did not. He noted that some of the projects worked very well, but others not so much. Some of the learning from the process related to providing more support to people when you ask them to engage in collaboration. Also, to giving more time and notice to ministers in the parish who may have already time-tabled events and find themselves not able to support new projects suggested by their parish group.

When asked for his personal reflections on this work, David comments that he was really inspired by his reading of the Five Marks of Mission, seeing them as a great resource and focus for people who wanted to explore what discipleship means in the 21st century. “I think when people started looking at the five marks,” he says, “they found a tremendous richness underlying them.” Importantly too, he adds, those involved came to a realization that this was not just a parish or diocesan project, but that they were sharing in discipleship at a number of levels, particularly as part of the wider Anglican Communion.