I have been thinking, this evening, on returning from my last ever youth group about what ministry is all about. I have also got caught up in a thread on John Richardson's blog about whether ministers by their very existence might hinder rather than encourage the independence of the laity and how the very fact that we have categories such as laity and clergy is a reflection, in part of our brokenness. I am also aware that I am caught in a strange in between place, laity in training to be clergy, for want of a better way of putting it.
This has all led me to my first ever favourite book 'The Magic Paintbrush' adapted by Fran Hunia from the traditional Chinese tale in 1979, fantastically illustrated by Martin Aitchison. I am so pleased to have found it in its entirety here. I have been led to think about this book more than once lately. One thing the 'discernment to Bap process' makes you do is think about your life and the shape it has taken and where your influences have come from. You rediscover some of the things that were meaningful in your earliest days. My favourite books as a child were the one I mention and 'The Velveteen Rabbit' by Margery Williams.
But I think the story of Laing serves as a kind of metaphor for the type of ministry I would like to have, idealist as I am (I'm sure they will give advice about this when I get my report breakdown from my DDO later this week).
Laing learns that when he paints a beautiful picture on his canvas, it comes alive and in the case of the bird, it flies away. He has to decide whether to dedicate the rest of his life to painting unfinished pictures which he can keep or complete pictures which he will only ever know for an instant of time. I very much believe in a God who believes in us very much more than we believe in him and very much more than we believe in ourselves. I think I have been privileged enough to experience the paintbrush which inked in my empty spaces and filled them with colour so that I could be truly free. I find the gospel truly freeing, as I am sure a great number of you do. I am a new creation in Jesus and I exist redeemed in God's imagination so I simply play catch-up in this life with the redeemed version of myself that already exists with him. He is reconciling us all to himself and loves us completely causing us to transform into something much more alive and finished than we could ever be without him.
But the gospel message of freedom also exists in the church which nurtured me in my journey. I was trusted to attempt things, allowed to mess-up, allowed to painfully learn. I was given the chance to do things by people who trusted that God would work all things to his good purposes despite my fears and failings. I was painted on a canvas and then allowed to fly free.
I wasn't left unfinished, dependent on my ministers' approval, seeking their affirmation.
I hope so much that I never forget what the ministers at my church gave away so that others could grow and I so hope I have a ministry of empty canvasses because all of the paintings have flown free.
Ordained Anglican. Thinking out loud about church.