Missionary Pilgrims

The best way we have found to describe the path we are taking is by combining two widely used terms: missionary and pilgrim.

By invoking these terms, we mean to communicate that our vocation is one of sharing ourselves with the world as Christ shared himself with the world, and also opening ourselves to being transformed by our journeys and experiences. This is the spiritual path by which we hope to grow closer to God, closer to one another, and more like Jesus.

Nevertheless, we recognize that these terms are somewhat problematic, and want to give them a little more discussion.

Missionary

We use this term with some apology, knowing that historically some well-meaning missionaries have inadvertently acted as an arm of imperialism, and that this is still a sensitive issue in the post-colonial world. Even today missionaries are often accused of providing social services only in order to manipulate people into conforming to their religion and culture.

All the same, we cannot fully distance ourselves from the term, nor do we wish to. Our motivations for this journey are chiefly religious, chiefly Christian. And they flow, at least in part, from an openly imperfect tradition of mission movements begun in the colonial age.

We cannot ignore the words of our Lord, "Go, and make disciples," even though we regret that some of our coreligionists have, from time to time, made those disciples at the point of a sword. Although we are critical of the traditions of our faith, we do not wish to do them the ultimate disrespect of disowning them and completely reinventing the wheel.

Nevertheless, our knowledge and sensitivities must inform our action. We don't like how missionary activity is sometimes cultural powerplay. We aren't going into a foreign land with bags of money and rigid ideas to build social systems that generate converts. We also feel that some Christian inter-religious discussion is contrary to the spirit of Jesus. We aren't going with a message of damnation to the unbeliever to preach on street corners.

Instead, we are coming to share ourselves, inspired by how Christ shared himself with humanity. This will mean, in part, speaking honestly and personally about our faith; it will mean, in part, finding ways to serve the people we encounter. But we hope and pray that this will be in the spirit of genuine love, brotherhood, and sharing, rather than as religious or cultural manipulation.

We also find that a part of our mission is living these questions, reflecting on our experiences, and modeling and articulating a reformed model of missionary work that embodies the humility and compassion of Christ, rather than the dominating and homogenizing spirit so often manifest in Western Christendom. Indeed, it may turn out that our missionary work is more directed toward the Church than the non-Christian.

Pilgrim

The term pilgrim is generally more understandable. Pilgrimage is an archetype that transcends the boundaries of religion. It is a journey undertaken for the purpose of encountering the holy, and thus transforming the self.

Pray for us!

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