Saturday, September 19, 2009

Notable anniversary

Mary rang this morning, cheerful as ever, to say she was OK, having spent the rest of the day going through tests at the hospital and finally being discharged after midnight. I was so pleased to hear her voice. Otherwise, it was a quiet day today, as Clare has gone up to visit her niece in Preston. Time to stop and think. It's thirty nine years today since I was ordained to the priesthood.

It’s strange to reflect that at the outset I thought I would soon move to ministry in secular employment. I was, as a student, been inspired by the Worker Priest movement in France, and also the writings of Roland Allen, an Anglican missionary in China in the early twentieth century whose observations about the spontaneous expansion of the church in China provided material to make a case for the value and effectiveness of indigenous voluntary pastors, as opposed to trained career professionals. His thinking was most influential on those who pioneered non-stipendiary ministry from the thirties onwards.

Somehow I have gone from one full time appointment in ministry to another in my thirty nine years, even training as a teacher after thirteen years, but then becoming a full time mission educator. My first real spell of voluntary ministry, apart form nine months helping out while an education student, will be when I retire. Retirement is from being an office holder, occupying a defined role in the church's ministry, not from participating in God's mission and ministry. I wonder what being a voluntary priest will be like? I’m rather bemused it’s taken me so long to fulfil this particular ambition..

Tomorrow is the fortieth anniversary of my deaconing, the start of public ministry, receiving authority to preach to Gospel, being set aside as an ambassador for Christ. Whilst being an ordained minister means taking on a very public role in many regards, like any ambassadorial role, there's a lot of behind the scenes work as well - time spent with individuals; time spent preparing, investigating, studying; time alone with God, wondering if you've got any of it right as the world around you changes at merry-go-round pace. As I get older, I cannot help but think that it's time alone with God that's been most lacking in my working life of priesthood so far, even though I tend to be a bit of an introvert. Will the balance change? Will I be able to cope with this, I wonder?

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