Increasing percentages of the population around us don’t know who we are or why we exist. We need to find new ways of telling the old, old story ”“ ways that are congruent with the joys and challenges of the people and societies around us.
This kind of recontextualizing of the gospel is (and has been) necessary in every age, since the first apostles. The Samaritan woman went home from her water break with Jesus to tell her friends and neighbors about the person she had just encountered (John 4). She didn’t hang around the well waiting for them to show up. She didn’t write a tract and post it next to the bucket. She didn’t even produce a drama to tell the story. She went and found her friends and told her own story.
There is an urgent need for Episcopalians to learn and try new ways of evangelism. Most of them begin by telling our own stories or providing opportunities for others to tell theirs. One of my favorite images of the latter comes from Nelle Morton, which she calls “hearing others into speech” (The Journey is Home, Beacon, 1985). An intrinsic part of our task is to provide opportunities where others can feel safe enough to begin to share their questions and fears and stories about God. Increasingly that’s being done by going out into the community, rather than waiting for people to come to church.