We recently hosted a group from The Church of the Redeemer, Bryn Mawr. They wanted to see first-hand our work at ECS St. Barnabas Mission, our shelter for homeless woman and children, and our youth center, Seeing Youth Succeed – two programs in which they actively support.
I deeply appreciate our relationship with the parishes of the Diocese with whom we have a strong affiliation. Many support ECS directly with financial gifts, and many of our volunteers come from the parishes. Our partnership with the Diocese in Darby, where we have opened a joint mission to deal with one community’s chronic poverty, is the latest example of these relationships at work.
The visit got me to thinking about mission. Rooted deeply in our baptismal covenant is our call to service, to love one’s neighbor as ourselves, even if that neighbor is a stranger, and to respect the dignity of every human being. While ECS is a traditional social service agency working with the most vulnerable to provide tools and services that lift individuals up and out of poverty, we are also deeply committed to working with our parishes to live into the words attributed to St. Francis: “Preach the gospel, and sometimes use words.” Essentially, to lean in and live our covenant.
Mission is a conscious act. At its core, it is the commitment of time to serve a cause in the service of others. It requires a decision to give of oneself. At ECS, we are committed to helping people build that capacity. We provide the opportunity for hands-on outreach, we train volunteers in this work (our partnership with the University of Pennsylvania will only elevate this training) and we support organizations that do this work by helping them build capacity with ECS Consulting.
We believe firmly that the vitality of a parish is directly tied to vitality of its work in mission. Bishop Dan talks about ECS being the outreach arm of the Diocese. Yes, we do some of the heavy lifting with some of the most vulnerable in our region, but we know that this work is going on in many places and in many ways throughout the Diocese. One only needs to look to the growth of our Deacon programs and their focus on mission to see the changes that are underway.
My message is simple: Mission is not a solo sport. The leverage that comes when we pool resources, when we stop caring who does the work and focus on the work needed and, most importantly, actually do the work. At ECS, we stand ready to go shoulder to shoulder with our parish brothers and sisters in this work. Frankly, we can’t do our work without you, and we know there are way more folks in need than we can possibly get to by ourselves. If we are to be a people of mission, then we need to lean in.