Friday, July 24, 2020

Tough words

At my ordination I was given A Minister's Prayer Book with its disciplined pattern of Scriptures for each day and quotations from past spiritual leaders.   I shall never forget first reading a sentence from Bishop Walpole:
If you are uncertain of which of two paths to take, choose the one on which the shadow of the cross falls.
That sets the bar so high, doesn't it ?  Too high? It really involves being 'poor in spirit'. Sacrifice seems too strongly accented!  Surely there can be real joy in receiving a call?  That is certainly part of the desire that we can feel.  Yet, so often there are risks and uncertainties and accepting a fresh call can often mean leaving a place where we have grown comfortable.  Looking back I have to say that each of my ministry moves has actually been harder than my previous situation.  Each time I was forced into something entirely new and those who know my story may recognize why I say that.  However in each move I can affirm that God has guided me!

Unsurprisingly I have often emphasized God's call in my writing but I was shocked in my last year's teaching in the US when a minister told me that idea of a 'call to a church' is no longer part of the language of ministerial settlement in his denomination.  It's all about seeing advertisements, applying, being interviewed and working out if it's going to be suitable for the minister's family. It's a question of Christian common sense like any career choice.  I was stunned by his matter-of-factness, about his dispensing with the need for prayerful discernment in such critical issues. Almost as though speaking of God's call is some pious jargon that lacks serious practical meaning.  I just hope this isn't a trend!

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