CMSI recently launched its new annual theme for 2020-2021: Voices Of Hope.
Developing a theme
The new theme initially started out as the title for a week-long programme that CMSI had been planning for this, past August. The idea was to host 30 of our Global Partner leaders in Ireland, following the Lambeth Conference in England. We wanted to provide opportunities to listen to, and learn from, our partners. So, we called the programme Voices Of Hope.
But Covid put pay to those plans and CMSI instead shifted its focus to story sharing and helping the global Church respond to the Covid crisis. Despite the postponement of our summer programme, we had become even more convinced of the importance of sharing our partners stories and providing platforms for them to speak. Our special blog series throughout the Spring and Summer was therefore entitled… Voices Of Hope. These updates were hugely inspiring and encouraging – they’re well worth a read!
What started as a title for a one-week programme became the focus of a blog series and is now our annual theme. We really are quite keen on this idea!
A Hallmark of Partnership
Our postponed summer programme had been set to continue a significant trend for CMSI. Throughout the past 15 years, CMSI has facilitated well over 200 visits from our Global Partners to Ireland. It’s one of our ‘USPs’ as an Irish mission agency, but it’s entirely in keeping with an approach to mission that has two-way relationships at its heart.
Within a truly interdependent family, where partnership is reciprocal… it is as important to receive as to give, it is as vital to learn as to teach, it is as valuable to host as to visit, it is as crucial to listen as to speak.
Receiving, learning, hosting, listening – these are activities that CMSI champions as it connects God’s people throughout Ireland with the global Church. That’s one of the reasons for our choice of annual theme. We want to hear Voices Of Hope from our partners.
This is especially important at a time when the cries of the marginalised and the voices of the oppressed can easily be drowned out by the constant, noisy and anxiety-inducing media chatter around Covid restrictions, Brexit and the impacts of both on our own lives.
Learning during Covid
It can be tempting to focus on ourselves during a crisis: to look inward and secure what is ‘ours’. But as churches in Ireland, there is much to be gained from casting our gaze more widely during this crisis and asking some bigger questions:
What might our partners teach us about the role of the Church in the midst of a crisis? What can we learn from the global Church as we consider the wider impacts of Covid-19 on local communities across Ireland?
What are the current impacts – and what might be the potential consequences – of Covid for our brothers and sisters in other parts of the world? What can we do to help and support them?
Of course, learning to listen to – and listening to learn from – the global Church is only part of the story. There’s no point in hearing, if we don’t then put into practice what we learn. As God’s mission people in Ireland, we have to develop our own Voices Of Hope. We need to share our own stories of God at work, changing lives. But more than that, we must ensure that our actions of compassion are accompanied by words that offer eternal hope and comfort…
But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? (Romans 10:14)
Giving voice to the annual theme
Over the next year, CMSI will share numerous Voices Of Hope, highlighting many ways in which God is at work throughout our world. We hope to provide opportunities for our Global Partners to speak and for the Church in Ireland to listen. And we will seek ways to encourage churches and individuals to speak words of hope within their own communities.
We pray that you will join with us in this year of listening, learning and sharing.
[This is an abridged version of an article featured in the latest edition of inMission magazine.]