Once reaching out becomes outreach, it becomes a noun that lacks a verb. Are we doing outreach? Studying it? Evaluating? This is why nouns birth committees, while verbs are still moving. It's why the Episcopal Church's Presiding Bishop has sought to reconnect us to the Jesus Movement.
Now, I love the work of outreach. The outreach of the youth groups at my parish is a monthly source of mutual blessing and life. The work of our outreach committee is among the most important work of the parish. My observation here is simply that outreach comes alive as it reaches out, which raises the question of why it would ever be imagined otherwise. And if doesn't need to be imagined otherwise, what language keeps us closest to the heart of things?
I believe this is an exercise in more than semantics. Reaching out communicates a vulnerability that outreach sometimes finds hard to come by. Reaching out gives and asks for help, both. Reaching out is hard to do without relationship. Reaching out implies a reciprocity that outreach relies on other nouns to complete. Reaching out is "a language understanded of the people," where outreach communicates a world of specialization.
But maybe this is much ado about not as much. What do you hope outreach or reaching out (whatever we call them) accomplish in the life of God's people? What verbs in the life of faith struggle to keep their verb-ness and momentum, and what's behind these shifts? What verbs in the life of faith give life to your soul, and where do you find space and support to live them?
|Google image search 'outreach.'|