The Gospel Zone
Principal Maylanne Maybee writes:
Last weekend I joined about 60 others for a weekend conference on Becoming a Diaconal Church, sponsored by the Anglican Diocese of Montreal and organized by Peter Huish, a senior deacon of the diocese who has been involved in prison chaplaincy for many years.
The keynote speaker was Mark MacDonald, National Indigenous Anglican Bishop. He spoke of the growing spiritual movement arising through the recovery of the notion of missio Dei, a notion that challenges the church to understand God’s presence and action in the world as something we participate in, rather than something we initiate.
He invited us to stand back and follow Christ in the Gospels in a new way. If we looked from a certain perspective, we could see at least two circles of people who followed and surrounded Jesus.
The first, inner circle, was a tightly knit group of disciples and followers, so close and numerous that he couldn’t tell who touched his clothing, and some had to lower their friend through the roof to get near him. Bishop Mark reminded us how often they seemed unable to listen to or comprehend his teaching, how often their question were just plain stupid! He called this the “Duh Zone”.
Further out was a more sparsely populated ring of people who were in urgent and great need, who connected immediately and powerfully to Jesus – people both rich and poor, from Zaccheaus the tax collector to the woman at the well, to Bartimeaus the blind beggar. Bishop Mark called this the “Gospel Zone”.
The discipline of Christian faith, and more importantly, the discipline of diaconal service, he said, is designed to keep us in the Gospel Zone.
It’s a profound and convicting message. The church does not ordain or commission people to diaconal ministry to enjoy status or privilege, but to be a daily reminder, in ministry and worship, of the presence of God in the Gospel Zone, among those whose situation – of poverty, marginalization, rejection, or need – connects them immediately and powerfully to Jesus. Diakonia is the act of going out toward and returning from these transformative encounters, finding the holy in the lives of ordinary people. A good reminder of what we equip people to do at the Centre for Christian Studies.