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Story 43 - Embracing Adventure in Mission

Mission Enabler for the Baptist Union
Written by Suzie Abramian in conversation with Revd Hayley Young 19/10/2020

What does adventure mean to you? A standard dictionary defines the word as, ‘an unusual and exciting or daring experience,’ which interestingly allows for considerable personal interpretation of what that experience looks like in practice!
As well as recently starting part time at Rumney Baptist Church in Cardiff, Revd Hayley Young is also the Regional Minister/Mission Enabler at the South Wales Baptist Association and a member of the BU’s core leadership team with the priority area of ‘Embracing Adventure in Mission.’ Here she gives an overview of what she sees happening in mission across the country and in particular the importance of adventure in mission.

How did this title in the BU’s core leadership team come about for you and what does it involve?
Well, apart from being chosen because I’m young and female.….(we hasten to add Hayley does have other qualifications!) this landed on my plate in June 2020 at a Mission Forum, where the BU identified its priority areas which they want to throw a lot of energy into. The ‘Embracing Adventure’ person is the link between anything missional, anything adventurous and the core leadership team, making sure that that missional voice is heard in every conversation and not just an add-on.
The blessing is, I get to hear some great stories from across the country, what we’re doing at the Mission Forum with the mission practitioners, and see what churches are doing on a ground level.

So as someone with that viewpoint, what are you currently seeing happening in terms of mission?
What I’m seeing at the moment is people being intentionally serious about discipleship. I’m not saying that we were weren’t before, but Covid-19 has made us delve deeper, because the things we relied on before were ripped from us, so ministers and churches have got really adventurous in worship and discipleship. On one hand, some people just replicated what they were doing on Sunday online but for others there was a bit more delving deeply. I think that as Christians we can be guilty of not putting God at the centre and Covid-19 rocked our world so much that we needed something stronger to cling on to.
We’ve seen that those on the outside, or fringe of church, suddenly had a window in to see what church is all about. We’ve seen those we already had relationship with “peering in” without it being intimidating, which is exciting. We’ve also seen churches do things on a massive level outside of the building, like Forest Church, these churches would never have thought of that if the building was always an option.
Before, Ministers (and I did this too) talked about how big their membership was, that was just how we measured. But now, people are talking about individuals and we started to rediscover the value of community. I think sometimes God uses the wider community to speak to us about what gospel should be like.
For example, at Christmas we’re encouraging churches when they would normally have their traditional services to make something online involving those who they would normally involve and on the actual weekends to invite people in your streets to sing carols outside their houses or provide the materials for people to make their own Christingles at home.

What would you say to those who might say these kinds of approaches are not really sharing the gospel?
What it’s doing is creating community, it’s showing that you care. And by the church creating the community, we’re enabling Jesus to be the centre. We have a choice, at the moment as there’s a lot of people trying to create community but I wonder how many people have reflected about what is happening now that first buzz from Covid-19 has faded away. The love that Christ gives is different from the love the world gives so of course that was going to fade. Now is the time for the church to build that community on a solid foundation, once you’ve built that, you’ve earned the right to speak into people’s lives.

The title of this project is ‘Stories of Missional Adventure’, how would you describe the use of the word adventure in mission?
About 5 years ago I turned up at my previous church and one of the elders came up to me and said, ‘Hayley, we’re going on an adventure to a bird-hide would you like to join us?’ I looked at this elder - who I am now good friends with by the way! - and thought “your idea of an adventure is nothing like my idea of an adventure!”
From that image, God reminds me that our adventures our different. What might be adventurous for me, might not be for you. For some churches at this time they’ve taken a bold, adventurous step by getting rid of their pews and for others they may have given up their building entirely, forever!
The analogy may have been used loads but it’s about taking one step at a time. Here in Wales we are surrounded by lovely mountain tops and deep valleys and if you want to get the best views you’ve got to start walking, you can’t just fly up to the top peak, it’s the small steps.
Hopefully, the church that has made those first small steps in mission will see what God can do when they open their hands and then they’ll be more likely to take the next step.

Do you think the word ‘Embracing’ was a key word to have in the title of ‘Embracing Adventure in Mission’?
I think so. We can all be guilty about thinking we’re sold on the idea of adventure but actually grabbing hold of it and going with it is something different.
We have to pay honour to how we’ve done church and mission in the past and notice it’s got us so far but as Baptists we wouldn’t be a movement unless we embraced adventure, it should be in our DNA.
I think that’s why the BU have said this is a value and a priority. It will always be a value of what we do as Baptist family but at this time we need to say this is more than a value, it has to be a priority and help embed it.

Thank you Hayley for all you’ve shared here, any last pearls of wisdom you’d like to end with?
What we might plan as an adventure is often totally different to what God’s got, I guess an adventure with God is not always the same as an adventure that we like.
My encouragement is just to keep stepping!
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