Joining with Christian Associates (CA) has been encouraging in many ways. We have warmly supportive colleagues experienced in ministering cross culturally in Europe, training as needed, and administrators whose job is dedicated to looking after CA people.
Another encouraging part of this process is getting a language for what we’ve been doing these past two plus years in Clontarf: embedding. CA defines embedding as “to indwell and become an enriching presence in context”.
We’ve been doing this intuitively the past two years, because we believed it is God’s call to us. Hearing people we respect also share this as a value has been great.
You’ve likely heard us talk about taking a couple of years at least after moving here to transition to life in a new context. While doing that, intentionally not being involved in active ministry, but rather treating this time more as language school or culture school. Being careful to notice cultural differences, and not allowing our (mostly) common language to obscure those differences. That is all part of embedding and is considered good ministry practice in our context.
CA has given a lot of thought and study to cross-cultural ministry. Having people to chat with and resources to study as we flesh out what it means to “embed” has been incredibly affirming and helpful. It’s affirming because we were already doing this and are getting this advice from people God is already using to build Jesus-worshipping communities of faith in Europe. It’s helpful because we now know people here who think deeply about this stuff and pray for us as well as what God is doing. We have more ways to think about what we are doing, more ideas to try, and more ways to understand what God is saying to us.
I believe embedding is both foundational and ongoing. God may be calling you to embed in your community, too, as we are all called to be ministers of reconciliation!
I’ll close with this. The following are thoughts on embedding from Mark Van Steenwyck:
Once you move into the area (or if you already live in the area), spend time just observing. Don’t get frenetic. Don’t start doing things until you understand the ethos of the neighbourhood. Let the spirit of the place make its impression. Fall in love with the little things. Get to know the people. If you start “doing your thing” before you are familiar with the place, then you’re forcing things too much. Ministry should fit with how God is already working in a place. If you start pushing your agenda before you start making friends with the neighbours and finding out about their lives, then you’re a salesman, not a minister of reconciliation. And throughout it all, pray. Pray for spiritual eyesight. It is the Spirit’s job to reveal Christ…not just to “them” but also to “you”. Pray that you can see Christ’s fingerprints in your neighbourhood. Pray to see the face of Christ in the face of those who live around you. Pray for the Spirit to show you what is wrong in your area, and also what is right. Seek to understand.
We invite you to continue to pray with us for the people of Clontarf and Northeast Dublin.