Presentation by J Trevor Jones to the PCC of Santa Margarita, July 2016
This is the second in a series of reflections by Trevor Jones, as Lay Chair of the PCC of Santa Margarita, on the Five Marks of Mission of the Anglican Communion. Trevor’s reflection on the first Mark of Mission was posted in July.
The Second Mark of Mission:
to teach, baptise and nurture new believers.
For things to say about this second Mark of Mission my first recourse was to the internet which, however, gave me nothing to plagiarise and so I am actually glad to say, was of little help. The Bible, of course, has much to say, particularly about teaching and baptising but this is not a Bible study. These then are my personal thoughts after prayer and hopefully in line with the Anglican Consultative Council’s vision.
It simply occurred to me to ask, who in today’s world should be doing the teaching, baptising and nurturing of new believers?
Do we ordinary lay-people refer any questions about faith to the Vicar because it’s his job, he is trained for it and knows far more than we do? We might say the wrong thing, or not know enough answers, or be shy or embarrassed to talk about our ‘private’ faith. But surely we all know that God created all things well, man fell into sin, God loved the world so much that He gave His only Son, Jesus sacrificed Himself to save us, the resurrection and ascension, and the Holy Spirit sent to help us. We know this much, but there are many out there – including people known to us personally – who don’t, and so yes, we are able and must be eagerly willing to teach new believers at least these life-changing, hope bringing foundations. We can also teach by sharing personal experiences and we can teach by example – and all with the help of the ‘safety net’ of the Holy Spirit there to help both the teacher and the taught.
What about baptism? Isn’t that specifically the vicar’s job, to wash symbolically with water at the baptismal font – or perhaps if you are John Sentamu, Archbishop of York, on occasion to baptise by total immersion. No, the water is the symbol of new life. The real purpose of baptism is to welcome a person into the family of Christ. We are baptised members of the family of Christ and so this is what we can and gladly must do. We must welcome new believers into the family of Christ and by bestowing that welcome, we all effectively share in their baptism.
What about nurture? This to me is a lovely word. Yes it includes challenging, criticising, even condemning, but more importantly it includes loving, uplifting, on-going teaching, on-going encouraging and on-going spiritual feeding. Margaret & I have been privileged to have led adult confirmation classes and to have led Bible studies, and nurturing in these ways, although terrifying, was also thoroughly rewarding for us. Nurturing in fact nurtures both the nurtured and the nurturer. This leads me to offer a final thought. Does a person ever stop being a new believer? We all, wherever we are on the Christian road, continue to grow with teaching and nurturing and so let us all in these ways help one another and whoever. With nurture comes Spiritual growth and the bearing of good fruit.