Mission on the mountain: serving 'everyone, everywhere'

October 14, 2011

The Rev. Richard Tolliver didn't go to St. Edmund's Episcopal Church at 61st Street and Michigan Avenue in the Washington Park neighborhood of Chicago, Illinois, with the intention of building affordable housing.

Yet 20 years later, the St. Edmund's Redevelopment Corporation has developed 562 housing units in 27 buildings, generating more than $65 million in investments in a blighted neighborhood where more than 60 percent of the population lives in poverty, he explained during the Oct. 14 afternoon plenary address at "Everyone, Everywhere."

More than 300 people from 63 dioceses and a dozen countries are gathered at the YMCA of the Rockies in Estes Park, Colorado, Oct. 13-16 for Everyone, Everywhere 2011, a conference of domestic and international missioners and partners from across the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion.

The church saw the need for affordable housing in the community and went with it, Tolliver said.

If you develop a sense of mission, the resources will follow. Don't look at lack of resources or you will never get started," he said.

This is the second Everyone, Everywhere conference. The first, which focused on global mission, was held in 2008 in Baltimore, Maryland.

"We are all a part of one mission," said the Rev. Ranjit Mathews, associate rector of St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Long Beach, California, and one of the conference's organizers. "We wanted to be intentional about local and international mission.

One of the challenges the conference sets out to address, he said, is "How do we as Episcopalians deepen our diverse relationships with friends half-way around the world and also around the corner?"

The Rev. Christopher Duraisingh, a theology professor at Episcopal Divinity School, during the morning plenary address Oct. 14 encouraged those present to slow down, pay attention and take time to discern the mission needs in their communities.

"Get behind, keep step and join with the spirit that is already there," he said.

Throughout the four-day conference, in addition to worship and plenary sessions, workshops and presentations were given on topics ranging from fundraising to engaging young adults in mission to the global consequences of gender equality.

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori preached and Colorado Bishop Robert O'Neill presided at the opening Eucharist Oct. 13.

"We have been sent here to discover how to send others more effectively -- so that each one can go out into the world to heal and reconcile brokenness," said the presiding bishop in her sermon.

"There are times when that work can feel as hopeless as trying to collect all the sand and rock at the base of these mountains, and put it back up there on the mountain. Yet we're here because we believe God works even through erosion and what looks like the destruction of creation. It is the destruction of human communities and ecological systems that has brought us here, hoping to find ways of healing."