Weighty choices in life require us to consider the risk involved in taking one path over against another. This is a skill we’re having to employ almost daily now as a result of the danger posed by the coronavirus. Will we risk taking public transportation, or going to the grocery store, or running an errand, when we know a deadly virus is on the loose? When will the risk be low enough that we can begin to gather again with others and return to our work or to places of worship? Knowing that the stakes are high makes this risky business.
Ministry often requires taking risks. Do we have what it takes, for example, to engage a new population, such as people who are in prison or living on the streets? Can we stretch ourselves to try something new? To what are we willing to commit our time, energy, and resources? Every choice has its risks.
God often invites men and women into risky situations. Recall the heroes in the biblical record and throughout the Church’s history who responded with courage to God’s call: men and women who risked everything – security, success, reputation, even their lives – to fulfill God’s purposes.
We recognize in our own community’s history the risks SSJE Brothers took to respond to God’s call. Just four years after our founding in Oxford, England, we opened a branch house in the United States. Very early on in our history we sent Brothers to India and South Africa. Drawing people to God was our mission, and it took us to risky places where there were significant obstacles to be overcome.
There is always a danger in taking risks. We recognize that we have sometimes overextended ourselves, tried to do too much, or made unwise choices. At other times, we have been too cautious, too afraid to take a risk. Prayerful discernment is needed at every step of the way.
Today, as a community, we’re asking: What risks do we need to take to be faithful to God’s call in our own time? Is there a purpose or cause for which we would be willing to take risks? What calling might embolden us, like Peter, to step out of the safety of the boat onto the storm-tossed sea? We ask ourselves: What is our India? What is our South Africa? What is the mission that God is calling forth in us at this time, in this season?
There are ways to extend ourselves without being reckless. One is to try new forms of ministry with familiar populations. For example, we are experimenting with podcasts, online retreats and workshops, and live-streaming worship services to reach those who, for now, cannot visit us or gather with others. Another way is to try familiar forms of ministry with new populations. One example: Br. Nicholas has led a weekly meditation group for people living on the streets in Cambridge.
Ministry always involves risks. What are the risks we are being asked to take now?