Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Priesthood

One of the big themes that I still need to wrestle with after the sabbatical is priesthood. I've been thinking hard about it, but still feel there's a journey ahead on this one. I've been reading Terry Pratchett's book "A hat full of sky" which could be read as a metaphor of traditional priestly ministry - if witches can be used as a metaphor for Christian ministry... He develops quite a good image of servant ministry in which those who have "power" choose not to use it but to immerse themselves in the stuff of ordinary life so that they can retain a sensible balance - and avoid the whole "cackling" thing with gingerbread houses and the like. This is an image of a tradition pastorally focussed (and separate) priesthood which seeks to meet the needs of ordinary people - particularly those who have no-one else to look after them.

I found myself being drawn in by this comfortable and strangley familiar world, but there are issues here. One problem is that no Christian can claim special "power" since we all have access to the same Spirit. None of us, however holy we may seek to be, can really claim a unique status. We are all wonderful treasure in jars of clay and therefore all need to humble ourselves with the awareness that we can be both very good and very bad. The wisdom in Pratchett's book needs to be taken on board by all of us - since we are all priests - we are all able to stand between earth and heaven...

So what of those "special" priests who are set aside (ordained) for the task? In Terry Pratchett's sequal, Wintersmith, which I also read on holiday. We are introduced to the incredible 116 year old witch, Miss Treason, who uses trinkets from a joke shop ("Boffo") to create an illusion of mystery and menace - which enables her to do her job more effectively. There are, of course, a range of clerical "Boffo" - from collars and robes, to crosses, hats and interiour decorations. The stuff we wear and surround ourselves with can create the impression that we clerical professionals are somehow more special - and irronically this also allows us to do our jobs more effectively...

Is ordination just a form of "Boffo" designed to set particular individuals appart so that they can not just function as priests, but be seen to be priests as well? Is the reason for competitiveness and hierarchical urges really about creating an aura of visible status which allow us to function as priests? Are we more effective the more holy, special and set appart we appear?

These are quite significan questions but I'm not going to rush to give an answer. Pratchett shows us how "Boffo" works, but when should we use it? He reminds us of the need to emerse ourselves in the ordinary so that the extra-ordinary can flourish. What do we do about this vexing issue of prioesthood?

I'm also re-reading Robin Greenwoods, Transforming Priesthood - lots of good stuff in there but he seems obsessed with the concept of a "parish priest". Do I believe in the "priest shaped hole" that apparently exists in every church, or is there a way of releasing the people of God to be priests in every place where they live, work, worship and play?

I'll be back to the theme of priesthood again soon, I'm sure...

2 comments:

Steve said...

Looking forward to reading more of your thoughts on this subject. The pew warmers need some kind of mechanism to allow them to be released into more of the priestly role that we all have. What is the answer? I don't know! Help!

Yuvi said...

please read my blog , i think the realistic answer about priesthood is there, it will surprise you .
http://yuvi69.blogspot.com/