Video for June 29th, 2023
Hello everyone and welcome to this week’s video.
Its that joyous time of year again when we are on ordination retreat at the Palace. It’s a time of peaceful reflection for the candidates before they begin active ordained ministry. All of them have been Christians for many years and active in all sorts of service inside and outside the church as expressions of their discipleship. The stories of God’s call on their lives are as varied as they are. However, in all cases it has felt eventually irresistible. They have submitted that sense of call to the wider Church through the selection process and its been discerned they have the gifts and calling to be ordained.
In the scriptures you won’t find a hard and fast distinction between ordained and lay. The Greek word Laos, from where we get the word laity, simply means the people of God. The ordained are a sub-set of that not a different species! The qualities of christian holiness to which ministers are called is not quantifiably different to the call on all Christians. However, Paul makes it clear in his writings that there is a special call on ordained ministers both to teach and to model what is being taught. His pastoral epistles are especially clear about the ordering of our personal lives and relationships. I think most people have that expectation. For those of us who are ordained the most stinging rebuke is along the lines of ‘call yourself a vicar!’ All Christians are called to cultivate character, holiness and moral purity. Ministers as examplars of this should encourage us, that such a life is possible. Ministers are given the same Holy Spirit as everyone else who follows Jesus.
I have no doubt that the demands placed on our ministers are higher now than when I was ordained 29 years ago. There is a higher burden of compliance, fewer volunteers able to share the responsibilities, more parishes to care for, and a graceless disciplinary process that can inhibit pioneering and innovation for fear of censure. I am very glad that system is in the process of root and branch reform. Many ministers, and I include myself in this, sometimes feel trapped in a system they don’t control and in their worst moments wonder whether that was what they signed up for. I don’t think ministry has had a social status for many years, but the place of the clergy in their communities is now often a hard-won privilege rather than a right. The changes in our society mean that we no longer have the cultural re-enforcement that used to do all our recruiting for us.
But, God still keeps calling people to this ministry. As result of the ministry of those I will ordain on Saturday, people will pass from darkness into light. Marriages will be restored; people will be healed; communities will be transformed; people will grow to be more like Jesus. Broken and hurting people will see something of the power of the Gospel to change lives and accept the invitation to follow Jesus. The bereaved will find comfort in their grief; prayer will be mobilised; God will be at work and Sunday by Sunday and at other times the sacraments will be celebrated and they will prophetically declare Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again. They will tell the great story of Jesus that will remain the truth, even if no-one in our culture believes it. In part, my role and that of the archdeacons is to provide the best possible environment for all of those things to flourish. As I often say to those who ask me, “Bishop, what is your strategy?” I reply, not entirely tongue in cheek, “Make good appointments, don’t make bad appointments, and then support and encourage them to get on with it.
And to finish I hope this would be a joyous occasion for our whole diocesan family. So, if you are free at 10 on Saturday for the ordination of Richard and Jonathan as priests, or at 4.30 for the ordination of Rosie, Sarah, Fiona, Freddie, Owen and Jonathan as deacons, do join us in the Cathedral as they begin this adventure of service. Will you join me in praying for them all after Paul’s words to the Church in Rome, “May they never be lacking in zeal, but keep their spiritual fervour, serving the Lord. May they be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. May they share with the Lord’s people who are in need and practice hospitality. May they know the power of the Holy Spirit filling them and equipping them for the work to which you have called them. May their teaching open the scriptures to bring life. And may, when their ministry is done, they hear the words of Jesus ringing in their ears, “Well done, O good and faithful servant.””