58 Ambassadors commissioned at St Paul’s New Southgate
On Trinity Sunday, the Bishop of Fulham came to St Paul’s, New Southgate (a Fulham parish) where four adults and 15 children were confirmed, eight adults and children were baptised and 58 adults and children were commissioned as Ambassadors.
There were eight different countries represented just in the backgrounds of our baptism and confirmation candidates; taken together with the wider congregation, at least 14 countries were represented. Little wonder Bishop Jonathan observed that, although it was Trinity Sunday, with all these nations represented, together with a wide spread of ages from toddlers to those in their ninth decade, we were witnessing a truly “Pentecost moment”! This was truly inclusive church. How did we get here?
For some years now we have been running at least one catechetical course a year at St Paul’s (often, although not exclusively, using the Pilgrim series) as part of our ongoing programme of Christian education (something we take very seriously). We had got to the stage where it was clear to me that what our people were ready for was training in everyday discipleship – which also happened to fit in very well with Capital Vision 2020, in particular the aspiration to be “more confident in speaking and living the Gospel of Jesus Christ”. So in September last year a widely varied group of 25 of our congregation (including teenagers) undertook the Church Army’s Faith Pictures course which we successfully ran (and which I can thoroughly recommend).
All of the group markedly benefitted from the training and increased in their confidence and passion for the Gospel, and in their desire to disciple others. Some examples: “For me it has normalised talking about my faith with others, as opposed to feeling that this would be possibly quirky and weird”; “This shows that there are possibilities to share my faith, and more than I thought”, and; “I had a conversation in the Post Office with someone about going to church and my faith and what it means to me, and I would never have done that had I not done the course.”
At the conclusion of the course, I invited all those who had participated to be commissioned as Capital Vision 2020 Ambassadors and they all agreed without hesitation to be the core group to be commissioned. Earlier this year, I also preached on everyday discipleship and evangelism and gave everybody in the congregation a copy of the Right Where You Are ambassadors’ booklet and asked them to prayerfully consider whether they should be commissioned. I know that there have been some interesting discussions around how confidence in sharing our faith might impact our wider mission.
More recently, all the younger people (and members of our Young Church) were given copies of the Every Day Everywhere booklet which proved very useful as I was told by one of the leaders that there was a perception amongst some of them that being an Ambassador was “for adults”. The feedback I have had from the Young Church leaders is that the young people were all delighted to be asked to be involved, particularly with the adults, and on a project which is so important to the future of the church. They also welcomed the responsibility being commissioned as an Ambassador involved, and the fact that they were just as responsible as the adults.
Faith Pictures – and our wider engagement with Capital Vision 2020 – has had a ripple effect in many diverse areas. Aside from the obvious confidence and “permission” it gave those who had attended the course to speak naturally and unashamedly about their faith, it also led to us to examine how we use our digital presence creatively for mission.
Our church Facebook page took on the literal sense of Faith Pictures and began including a picture with our weekly sermon posts in order to make more of an eye-catching and interesting presence. This has had an amazing effect on our reach, and more importantly, with our interactions online – our Facebook statistics are showing that we are reaching a large number of people in all sorts of places. We also posted the Bible Society’s daily Advent challenges and the Church Army’s weekly Salt and Light Lent challenges (our church playgroup also posted similar weekly challenges which were also used in our church primary school), and these too were popular, judging by the statistics.
We also thought to advertise our Shrove Tuesday Children’s Pancake Party to a wider community for the first time through the parents’ listings app Hoop (previously we wouldn’t have thought to advertise a church event on a secular app) and this was a wonderful and well-attended opportunity for touching the lives of those who may never yet have known the love of Jesus.
Our Instagram page is seeing similar popularity and reach and is being used in a way that engages with a much younger audience in a non-threatening manner. By merely being a normal but regular poster, we have seen young people open up to the concept of faith where they maybe hadn’t even considered it before.
Even our recent involvement with the FareShare programme (where we help to distribute surplus supermarket food to those in need) has been an occasional route into faith-based discussion.
We feel that this is very much the beginning. The momentum has not dwindled despite the time between the seeds being planted during Faith Pictures in September 2016 and the bearing fruit of Ambassadors being commissioned by Bishop Jonathan in June 2017 and we are excited to see where God takes us next.
Fr Mark McAulay SSC is Vicar of St Paul’s Church, New Southgate.
Could you commission ambassadors at your church? For more information on commissionings, you can visit: www.ambassadors2020.org/commissioning-ambassadors.