Choosing to be ordained must be one of the most self-less things that anyone can be called to do. You are giving yourself to God completely, to serve him and others, according to his will, at all times and in all places. Wow! Is it the ultimate obedience to God, a trusting relationship and acceptance that God knows what is best and will lead you at all times? Surely this is all about being, whilst God is doing?
Ordained people are called to be God's shepherds on earth, leading, teaching and serving congregations as well as the wider community of a parish. How many funerals do they conduct for people who they have never met or attend church? We tend to revere our vicar or priest, and expect them to be infallible. What a burden to bear, to always have to be seen to be perfect. This applies to everyone they meet, not just their congregations. As Christians we should not judge, but in reality, our church and our priests are being scrutinised and judged everyday, by individuals, other faith groups and in the media.
Ordained people carry authority in their churches and parishes, and are looked to for guidance and advice. To do this effectively, they need to maintain a distance between themselves and individuals, meaning that they cannot develop deep friendships that might compromise them. This must make life lonely in their parishes sometimes.
Last week at evening prayer we were asked to prayer for our vicar who has been given an enormous task in our benefice. The preaching retired priest described it as 'too big' a task. As a member of a parish that is adding to this burden, I felt quite guilty. I want to be part of the soultion, but I fear my influence is too weak. I have the option to walk away, and I am still trying to discern what God wants me to do, but our vicar cannot do that. It struck me how strong her faith needs to be to carry on, to trust that God knows what he is doing, and that God will provide assistance and a solution one way or another. I made a resolve to continue to walk with her as long as I am able.
If our ordained people face challenges today, when they have the support of a deanery and diocese, how much more difficult must it have been for the early church. Imagine being given the gift of the holy spirirt and then being sent away from your home, friends and family, to preach to people who are alien to you, in a time where christians are persecuted or distrusted. Then again, perhaps this is what our priests face everytime thay move to a new parish.
Our ordained people need to be good communicators, influencers, people managers, and teachers, and have the gift of discernment. They need to be approachable, tolerant, patient (very), reserved ( sometimes), self-less, and above all be centred on and obedient to God. They need to be deeply spiritual people, who can rely on God at all times. But they can't do everything, everywhere, all at once, and that is why they need us.
So, we were asked to reflect on what gifts we think we have that could contribute to our ministry and service.
At the risk of this sounding like a CV, I have good communication, listening, admin and IT skills. I am told I have emotional intelligence and am able to show empathy. I have the gift of having met and worked with a very diverse set of people who have enriched my life. I am passionate about inclusion and social justice. I naturally seek to meet the needs of others (I'm a facilitator), and enjoy helping others grow and learn. I feel that God is present in my secular work, and I want to serve him wherever and whatever I am doing.