I am currently reading a very interesting and thought-provoking book by Stephen Cottrell, who recently became Archbishop of York. The title is ‘On Priesthood’ and although to a great extent directed at those called to a vocation of priesthood, much of what he writes is relevant to all Christians, particularly those in the Anglican Church, as we are.
In his introduction he says:
I passionately believe that ministry does belong to everyone and that because of our baptism everyone has a share in the ministry of Christ and a responsibility to live as His disciples.
Subsequently he goes on to consider what exactly the Church is.
The Church is a community, not an organisation or an institution; a community of men and women formed by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and his impact in the world, and constantly being transformed by the activity and outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
This suggests to me that the Church is essentially active and adapting to new ways of living, new ways of ‘being Church’. That is particularly relevant at this present time when we have all had to adapt, first to worshipping in our own homes, spending time in prayer on our own, then to sharing together on Zoom – both traditional Morning Prayer and also a session of ‘free prayer’ time – and, of course, benefiting from the many services streamed each Sunday, both by churches in our own Diocese and also from other churches within the Church of England. We have been able to enjoy and appreciate a wealth of different forms of worship and some superb sermons! Now that we are able to worship together, albeit in a rather restricted way, we are having to learn new skills; how to greet one another while wearing masks; how to share the peace without contact; how to assure our fellow worshippers that we are still a coherent group, even when socializing is at a minimum.
It may surprise some of you to learn that all ordination services in the Church of England, be they for bishops, priests or deacons, begin with these tremendous words:
God calls his people to follow Christ, and forms us into a royal priesthood, a holy nation to declare the wonderful deed of him who has called us out of darkness into his marvellous light.
The Church is the Body of Christ, the people of God and the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit. In baptism the whole Church is summoned to witness to God’s love and to work for the coming of his kingdom.
I’m amused by Stephen Cottrell adding to that Whether we like it or not!
He sums it up by affirming that, though some Christians will not like it and some may rail against it, there is actually no choice: ministry is the work and witness of the whole church.
Work and witness – we have seen quite a lot of both recently with the amount of work necessary, to keep our church building Covid 19 -safe and church services adapted to conform to regulations; and to ensure that communications are up to date and transmitted in various forms to as many people as possible. While we pay tribute to those who are doing just that, let us remember that we are all called to God’s service in whatever way we are able to serve.