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Bishop Richard's Weekly video Message - Transcript 24/09/2020

Hello everyone, and welcome to this week’s video. I’m happy to say, we are going to get our diocesan ordinations in this weekend, just before the restrictions on gathering ramp up again. Not being able to fully celebrate with Jo, Katie, Lawrence, Tiffany and Joe as they are ordained deacon and Ian, Linda and David as they are ordained priest, is one of the many losses that COVID has brought to us. We licenced them as lay works a few weeks ago anticipating that we could have a much bigger event now, but sadly, that has proved not to be possible. Do watch some of the videos on the website in which they share how their sense of call has developed, culminating in this weekend. For some this has been a gradual realisation of something God put in their heart from an early age. For others it has been a much more dramatic thing. 

I’m reminded of my own call to ministry. At the time I was an agricultural advisor. I was living in a rose covered cottage in Wiltshire being paid a lot of money to go for walks in the country. I wasn’t looking for a new direction. I went to the New Wine conference in 1990. At one of the morning Bible readings from John’s Gospel the speaker said,” some of you will be called to exercise your ministry in the normal workplace, some of you will be called onto the mission field overseas, and some in ministry in the church. I had that very powerful but horrible sinking feeling that the third one referred to me. That was my personal reaction, although I just knew it was God. I can honestly say, I had never considered ordained ministry before. It was a complete bolt for the blue. I steadfastly tried to avoid it for the next three months, but every time I dared to pray that if it was Gods will there would be a sign – there was! Often dramatic both in its nature and timing. Eventually my vicar asked me on a church weekend away whether I’d considered it and I had to give in. I’ve viewed the advance of my ecclesiastical career since then with a sense of bemusement!

Call and vocation is not a purely subjective. I remember a young man in a previous church who was utterly convinced the Lord was calling him to lead worship on the guitar. The fact that he couldn’t play properly didn’t seem to faze him unduly! Quite rightly the C of E examines folk carefully to work through with them whether ordination is indeed God’s call on their lives. It’s a thorough process, culminating in a selection conference and then two, or three years training. Its quite right we celebrate and encourage those who offer themselves. It has involved for them significant sacrifices and cost. However, ordained ministry is not the sole or even necessarily the highest vocation Christians aspire to. Our priests and deacons are disciples first and have a vocation to their families as well. They are often spouses and parents first. Paul, in Ephesians 4: 11 makes clear that the ordained have a particular role in the church to encourage the whole people of God in service. “So, Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.” You’ll note that Paul’s understanding of the purpose of ministry is clear – to equip God’s people (that’s all of God’s people from the youngest to the eldest – all who are followers of Jesus) to works of service.

Its vital we see our call to service as not primarily about keeping the institution of the church functioning. We are all hugely grateful for those who give sacrificially of their time to posts like church warden, PCC member and the like. We wouldn’t have a church without you. But before I was ordained I wasn’t a part time Christian, at least I hope not! Our service is in what we do from Monday – Saturday in our workplaces and communities. We talk of a vocation to ordination, but its vital we also talk of vocation to accountancy, or financial services, or law, or health services or teaching or care work (paid or unpaid). Any job or career can and should be a living out of our discipleship. This has been stressed recently by the national church through the setting God’s people free/ everyday faith agenda.

80% of those who come to faith as adults say that the single most important factor in that journey was a Christian friend. If the church is to thrive we need Christians living out their call to be simple disciples in every aspect of life. People are most likely to see Christ if they see him in the lives of his disciples – that’s you and me.

So, do pray for a more folk to hear God’s call, either in everyday life or through a role in ministry, either as a lay person or ordained. And as we celebrate with our friends being ordained this weekend lets be encouraged in our own service to God wherever that may be.

Have a good week and may all of us hear afresh God’s call, unique to each one, and give us the courage to obey.

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