Saturday, 2 August 2008

2. Ministry in Life

One of the big criticisms against collaborative or mutual ministry is that they tend to draw attention on "churchy" ministry - in an effort to maintain the institutions of the Church, we end up turning lay people into mini vicars.

As an antidote to this some speak about ministry in the church, vs. ministry in the world - the clergy exist to enable lay people to serve God in their work places... It's all about equipping the people of God for mission...

I've got a couple of problems with this. Firstly, I'm not sure that collaborative ministry is ultimately about sustaining the church, so much as recognising the ministry of all God's people, whether it be in church or in the World. All ministry needs to be given equal status as a fulfilment of God's call - this is surely what the mutual ministry movement is trying to achieve!

And yes, there is a distinction between an enabling ministry which equips God's people for service and the service of God in creation that such ministry enables... I'm less sure that this is a clergy/laity divide. We are all members of the "laos" - the "people" of God - whether we are ordained or not. Many NSMs and OLMs carry out most of their diaconal/priestly ministry in the workplace - not the church.

Against this backdrop, there is a real need to change the way we relate to the world of work. I am concerned about the way we focus so much attention on new ordained ministers when they start work, but don't acknowledge our members when they begin a new job. This is a form of clericalism and dualism which we probably should try to avoid. Here are a few suggestions:

1. Liturgy of New Beginnings: We could do with a simple liturgy which we could use during Sunday services to bless, pray for and commission those who are beginning new jobs - or voluntary appointments. We could, for instance, use oil and the laying on of hands. We could also present people with a pocket cross and a bible as symbols of their call the take the Word of God into the World of Work.

2. Celebration of Work: We could have an annual celebration of working people - not sure of an appropriate date - on which we celebrate the work that people do. This could also include some theological input about the relationship between faith and work.

3. Living in the Workplace: We could put together a short course which equips people for the task of being a disciple in the workplace. This could deal with spirituality, ethics, mission and relationships.

4. Supporting Working People: There are networks which attempt to help people in their working lives. We could draw attention to these, or create our own...

I think this is a really important issue if we are to move forward as a missionary organisation. What do you think?

See After Sunday

1 comment:

Alastair said...

Another complete agreement - must be something wrong here, or right...

There's a nervousness amongst clergy that if we take away some of our 'special-ness' we end up being nothing. Yet I think that getting into a mentality of 'every member ministry' amongst the whole people of God is a key factor in making us a missionary body rather than sustaining the institution of 'Church' for its own sake.

I love Church - really - it is, to quote a post of mine some weeks back, the reason I get up in the morning. I think the Church exists to resource the mission of Christ, but not to be the mission of Christ or consider itself such!

As such when we do gather as 'the body' we need to integrate the affirmation of ministries of all kinds in our weekly worship, we need to pray for each other in our places of work and study, our homes and the places where we spend time, our families and friends in order to recognise that the ministry of Christ is being performed, or should be undertaken, by every member of the body of Christ and in order to support and resource one another in that ministry.

Ely Diocese is quite good at recognising and affirming new ministries, also at offering liturgy for the beginning of new ministries, the foundation of (lay and ordained) ministry teams and the training and resourcing of church members for a variety of ministries. I hope to take that idea to a new place and start some new things in Devon.

Long waffly answer to a great post!