As many of you know I grew up in an agriculturally rich area filled with small towns. Most of these communities had an Episcopal church. Both the area as a whole and the individual communities each had their own context and culture.
Ninety miles to the east was another agriculturally rich area filled with small towns. Yet, because of the history of the people who settled there, crop differences, and an entirely different landscape, it had very different feel from where I grew up. An then 180 miles to the northeast, nestled in a valley between the mountains, was the big city. The culture was significantly different not only from where I grew up but from neighborhood to neighborhood. Both of these areas and the communities that resided within them had their own context and culture.
Such is the case with the Episcopal Church in Minnesota. In my early days as the Bishop folks would kindly describe “Minnesota” to me. While I always appreciated their perspective, I quickly noticed that there was quite often a significant variance in the understanding of exactly what “Minnesota” was – both from what I experienced from Minnesota families and from different parts of the state.
For a number of years we have organized ourselves as Regions. And for years people have talked about both the purpose and functioning, or lack thereof, of Regions. Beginning with the work of the Mission Strategy Network and continuing with Council’s Committee on Mission, combined with lots of conversation across ECMN, a direction has come forth to organize ourselves into Mission Areas.
Mission Areas will be representative and respectful to the area and the communities that reside within each’s own context and culture. How folks in northwest Minnesota engage God’s mission will not necessarily be the same as the folks in the southeast part of the state or even how those in the east metro do so compared to those in the west metro. Nothing new here. The same was true for the early community of followers of Jesus. How those in Ephesus engaged God’s mission was different than those in Corinth – context and culture.
The real hope is as we move into Mission Areas we will move towards greater collaboration and resource sharing to have a deeper engagement in God’s mission both with our geographical areas and our own local communities.