22.2.09

Ministry in different shapes and sizes


The outsider's view of theological college might be of an establishment full of the educated sons of cleric fathers, highly educated and very middle class but it couldn't be more different. God uses such ordinary people, (how very biblical!) the old and young, male and female, the sons and daughters of just anybody, those sons and daughters having had very different backgrounds, some having come to faith quite late in life.

Richard Turnbull's speech to the Derbyshire Reform conference in 2006 seemed very critical of the part-time theological student in training. But training has adapted to suit the dictates of a modern age where men and women share career and child-care responsibilities and thank goodness it has. As a result ministry is so diverse. This morning's service at my church was led by two women, three in total, if you count the person delivering the intercessions (me) and none of us are paid, one is an assistant minister NSM and also a primary school teacher, the other is part-time and the stuff I do is on a voluntary basis. It would seem that the idea of a full-time, male, public-schooled minister is something of a caricature, although, of course, many exist and do a sterling job.

Bishop Alan describes how one of the reasons for Church decline way back was when in the nineteenth century resident gentlemen clergy moved into 'big Georgian rectories' and 'out went peasant curates who were less learned and often part time, but radically incarnational in village life.'

We must look to our ministers these days in all their various shapes and sizes and not think that we are doing something radically different. Perhaps we are reviving the part-time parson, incarnational in village life, town life, city life! Perhaps these part-time 'parsons' are each a part of a team, a community of the spiritually mature leading people into closer relationship with Christ.

In 2007 a butcher became a minister (ordained in Derby Cathedral ,2007) and so he feeds his people each week day with literal meat and with the spiritual meat of the gospel at the weekends and probably in big heaps with the sausages and chops over the counter every day too.

We need ministers that we can relate to.

I met a newly ordained minister at college, attractive, trendy in her striking red shirt, describing how she is involved just as much in ministry when she stands chatting in the playground as she picks up her children, as she is when she in her church on a Sunday. This is perhaps that incarnational ministry which at one time we had nearly lost and is now very much alive and being encouraged.

I hope I get to be part of a team in an ordained capacity one day just like I'm in teams today as a volunteer. My greatest fear is getting into a situation where I'm going it alone or I've not delegated enough responsibility away.

Derbyshire ordinations 2007

Gary Dundas, 50, will be an NSM in Stanton by Dale with Dale Abbey and Risley as well as continuing to run the two butchers shops that he owns with wife Diane. Gary runs his Draycott butchers shop, while his Breaston shop is run by his brother, Alastair. Gary has lived in Draycott all his life and started working in the Draycott shop as a boy in 1969 delivering orders on a bicycle.

He said: "I was born on St Mary's Avenue, near St Mary's Church, and when I started my career as a butcher, St Mary's actually moved next to the butchers on Victoria Road. So I feel my business has a close affiliation with church life. I do share my faith with my customers and I'm open to questions and conversation about it, so it is also part of my ministry in this village. I had been a Reader in the church since 2001, but I wanted to be ordained because there are limitations to the role of a Reader and I want to be able to give people more. There is sacrifice involved in the ordained ministry, but a great deal of satisfaction too."

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