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Jan Van Eyck draws spectaclesHallo again to all.

We're not entirely sure why, but we've been scouring diocesan websites in the Anglican Communion looking for 'mission' or 'vision' statements. (Sounds rather penitential, doesn't it?)

Believing that such statements were rather a North American concept, we were surprised to find 'visions' popping up in Africa, Australia, and England. They ranged from the simple to the unbearably complex. Many seem to have developed from intensive internal discussions with parishes, people, and clergy. Others seems to have sprung, apparently full grown, from a bishop's head. (The Diocese of Toronto's vision statement is a notable example of that.) Diocesan visions are generally vast and abstract, with laudable but untrackable objectives. The Diocese of Lichfield in England offers this as one of the points of its mission:

'Where every local church and church school sees itself as a sign, agent and foretaste of the Kingdom of God'

Surely a glorious goal if ever there were one. But how can one measure whether parishes are in fact achieving that goal? The Diocese of Gambia, on the other hand, is most specific:

'Under God, by the year 2009, the buildings for the Christian Education and Development Centre will be completed . . . every parish will have at least one income-generating project to support services offered . . . a formal Diocesan presence established both in Senegal and in Cape Verde'.

It will be easy to know whether that vision is achieved or not. By January 2010, its outcome will be evident.

The Diocese of Carlisle — two years into its Diocesan Plan From Survival to Revival — has tabulated that '18 churches have installed loop systems; 25 have installed ramps or handrails; 10 have installed wheelchair accessible toilets'. Well and good, but somewhat far from the Diocese of Johannesburg, which proclaims a vision that 'every parishioner takes responsibility to contribute to the life of the faith community and be a witness in the broader community. This requires the spiritual growth of all believers, a deepening relationship with God, others, oneself and creation.'

We're left wondering about visions and missions. In post-Christian and robustly secular societies — those in the first world — do grandiose 'mission' and 'vision' statements help invigorate and re-focus parish churches that are disorientated and perhaps despairing? Or is it the process of creating such statements that proves beneficial? Having chances to vent, rant, and share with others experiencing the same hard reality you are may be reason enough for a diocese to embark on the development of a vision. But when a years-long process is complete, does the resulting statement make a difference? Does it hang on the vestry wall and inspire PCC meetings? Is it something clergy actively refer to when considering the health and life of their own churches? Or are they skimmed and then filed away, just one more abstract document, written but never really read?

We don't mean to cavil at the idea of vision or mission, for dioceses near and dear to us at Anglicans Online have such statements or are in the process of developing them. Surely much must depend on the kinds of questions directed to people in a diocese. One question that particularly caught our eye was this:

What is the single thing we need to do in the next five years that would make it the most exciting, creative, and inspiring time ever within the Diocese of _____?

We wondered just what sorts of responses this intriguing question provoked. Then, perhaps oddly, we then turned that question to Anglicans Online itself.

What could we do to make this site more creative and inspiring to you? AO has been around a long time now, going on 13 years, and you may have ideas for what you'd like to see. We're still a small staff, entirely volunteer, so some things might be out of the question. But we'd like to know. Tell us! And whilst you're at it, do let us know what you value most particularly. Do you have certain sections you regularly turn to?

Worry not: despite asking you a vision sort of question, we've no plans to develop a mission statement. (We think the most useful mission statements fit on a t-shirt or a bumper sticker — and few can meet that criterion.) Our mission is already written, long ago:

Go forth into the world in peace;
be of good courage;
hold fast to
that which is good;
render to no-one evil for evil;
strengthen the faint-hearted;
support the weak;
help the afflicted;
honour all people;
love and serve the Lord,
rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit.

See you next week.

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Last updated: 11 March 2007

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