As you read July’s magazine, I trust that this year’s ‘big production’ has gone off without a hitch. No, I’m not talking about a successor to last year’s stage production, The Tree of War, but the curate Alan’s first service as a priest!
Preparation for it was quite an undertaking, given the number of people who wanted to come and take part. I extend a particular ‘thank you’ to the Church Wardens and their team for ensuring that we handled the occasion with aplomb.
To be ordained priest is a huge step in the life of any minister. Whilst being made a deacon represents a first and often terrifying move into ordained ministry – I’ll never forget the first day I walked down a street in my dog collar! – it is the priest who traditionally gathers up those things which make the church ‘the church’. S/he
can pronounce forgiveness and blessing and preside at the Eucharist amongst many other things. It is a role in which is vested awesome and humbling authority. Furthermore, it is a way of being faithful to God’s call which cannot be sustained without two essentials: grace and humour.
When I was ordained priest in 2006 I actually made a bit of a fool of myself. As the hands of the Bishop and the priests was laid upon me I burst into tears. Not the quiet tears of joy that one might hope for, but huge gasping sobs. I remained a blubbing wreck for the rest of the service. It was not my finest hour (imagine the poor
Bishop as he had to pronounce blessing between my sobs!).
However, my emotional response was a token of the powerful moment that ordination can be. For me it signalled the culmination of many years of discernment, false starts and, ultimately, trust that God would reveal the path. I want to remind each of us that God is faithful and is calling us into deeper service and vocation. For the primary call God makes to us is not directed towards priests or deacons or bishops, but on each of us as Christians. It is our baptismal commitment that matters.
When we are baptized we commit ourselves to not be ashamed to confess our faith in Christ. It is easy to imagine that the work of service and commitment is primarily that of the ordained. However, if that world-view ever worked, it has lost traction in recent years. The church has begun to recover a proper sense of the priesthood of all believers. In short, that the vocation of being a follower of Jesus, of being baptized into his Body, is the starting point for everything.
So my challenge this month is to invite you to think about how you might deepen your relationship with God and seek to embody the Good News. The word ‘embody’ is important. It suggests that what we should seek to do is live our relationship with God in our bodies, not simply in our minds. In other words, it’s not about intentions, but about living. For example, when we pray, we are doing something embodied. Our posture often changes, perhaps we
close our eyes. We become more concentrated and hopefully in a place where God can meet us and we meet God. And as we pray, we draw into closer relationship with the world. That then can act as a spring to deeper action and faithful love. As God changes us, we begin to show more of God to the world in our action.
So, as Alan commences a new stage in his ministry, may we all be open to discern where God is calling us to be.