For those being ordained

Man on the beach head

I wanted to write a post for those who are being ordained at Chester Cathedral on Saturday. They are Avril Ravenscroft, Collette Jones, Grant Cohen, Heather Buckley, Heather Pang, Lorraine Reed, Nikki Eastwood, Patches Chabala, Paul Cumming, Rob Wardle, Sandra Langerhuizen, Stephen Callis, Steven Hildreth, Tim Watson and Trevor Legge. They will be preparing for this great event in God’s mission over the next few days. My own priesting was in Sheffield 38 years ago. I have to say that I am as enthralled today as I was then.

People are ordained as a response to vocation. This is a call for and in the church for the enabling of God’s mission. It is a call to the church that is heard within the church, and it is the church which tries to discern who is best to respond to that call and which then goes on to support and equip them. The discernment is concerned with whether the person has the gifts to minister to others given the needs of a situation in the capacity of an ordained minister or whether they are gifted for ministry in another form.

God’s call and his gifts are all God’s ministry to the world and his way of serving the needs of his creation. They are also God’s ministry to us personally. Ordination focuses on God’s ministry in and to his church, and on his ministry to and through us. The joy in this realisation is, for me, personified in the great laughter of Desmond Tutu.

Sadly, for all of us, the pressures and responsibilities can be overwhelming. Worldly pressures, anxiety and fear can be allowed to get the better of us. I joined this morning’s prayer of the church and read what Jesus said to his disciples. “Don’t worry about your life.” (Luke 12:22) I then joined the church’s response based on Psalm 73. “Lord, you will guide me with your counsel and afterwards receive me with glory. For I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand.” (That has to be the left hand for those who are left handed).

This hand in hand counselling reminded me of the consultancy model painted by Charles Margerison as “arm in arm consulting”. There is considerable responsibility in ministry, but that responsibility is not given to us to overwhelm us or weigh us down. It is given in love and for love. Those with heavy burdens are invited to yoke themselves to Christ to make light work, to lighten heavy hands and hearts and to be blessed and blessing. “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30). (Yoke and yoga have the same Sanskrit root denoting union).

Jan Richardson’s If the Yoke Fits would make a wonderful design for stoles or chasubles. The traditional yoked chasuble is a visual reminder of the light work of ordained ministry and God’s ministry to his ministers, ordained and lay.

Here’s the link to the Service of Ordination.

The photo is of one of Gormley’s figures in Another Place on Crosby beach. It is by Lou Murphy.

>ubuntu

>Desmond Tutu and the tradition of “ubuntu” reminds us that there is no such thing as a solitary individual. There is no translation of “ubuntu” into our own European language because “individualism” is so embedded in our culture. Bill Clinton describes “ubuntu” as “mystical”, which I take to mean as “elusive”. Ubuntu’s principle is “I am because you are“. “A person is a person through other persons. I need you to be “you” so that I can be “me”. I want “you” to be all you can be because that is the only way I can be all I can be.” If I dehumanise “you”, I will be “myself” dehumanised. What an intriguing insight from African culture. Clinton responds to Desmond Tutu’s insight by saying that “life is too short to waste time winning fleeting victories at other people’s expense, and we now have to find ways to triumph together.”

Yesterday I was called to help out in Christ the King, Birkenhead, and saw firsthand how a congregation is trying to be all that they can be so that the people of that inner city parish can be all that they can be. Yesterday, Shay was baptised. His life depends on those around him being all that they can be. He becomes a person through those other persons. Gornik writes that this sense of community is often forgotten: “It is this common life – how people care for one another, generate new patterns of relationship, and take seriously the call to serve their neighbours – that sets the church part, even more than its buildings, its programmes, its pastor or its preaching. The significance of the common life is often neglected in traditional and even contemporary discussions with the church – which great detriment. When people know they are deeply loved, cared for, accepted, and wanted by a community, they are transformed by the experience.” (To Live in Peace. 2002. p74)

>New Year

> It was an Edinburgh New Year for us with our son and partner. It was good to relax with them – though it wasn’t so relaxing at the Princes Street party. What was moving was New Year’s Day at St John’s Church where we were all invited to confess/dispose of our shame of ’08. Everyone had something to dispose of in the liturgical waste basket – which was then set alight (I bet the Church Council hadn’t discussed that!) and did its dance as the most perfectly formed flame – then drenched in water (?baptism) – and the consequential smoke rising in prayer for a new beginning.

We sang words from Desmond Tutu.

We prayed:

Come Father,
Come Mother,
Come Lord Jesus
Come Holy Spirit of God
Give us for our hallowing
thoughts that pass into prayer
Prayer that passes into love,
and love that passes into action.

And we prayed:

May the blessed sun shine on us and warm each heart till it glows like a great fire, so that strangers and friends may come in and warm themselves. May the light shine out from our eyes, like a candle set in the windows of a house, and may the risen Lord bless us and bless us kindly.

But most of all, we were quiet – enjoying this public space of Edinburgh into which some people had had the care to invite us.

“There is no neutrality in a situation of injustice and oppression. If you say you are neutral, you are a liar, for you have already taken sides with the powerful. Our God is not a neutral God. We have a God who does take sides. . . who will not let us forget the widow and the orphan.”
Desmond Tutu

Photo by gitgat.

>Zimbabwe

>Today’s a day to think about those people in Zimbabwe who can envisage a far better future than anything on offer from Mugabe – in other words – the majority. The fresh vision of Freshlyground’s song struck home powerfully this morning – http://www.youtube.com/get_player
as did these words from Desmond Tutu:

“There is no neutrality in a situation of injustice and oppression. If you say you are neutral, you are a liar, for you have already taken sides with the powerful. Our God is not a neutral God. We have a God who does take sides. . . who will not let us forget the widow and the orphan.”