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?
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