Tuesday, April 15, 2008
Weighing and pondering
Last night I was gathered with some of my fellow Curates to discuss what it means to become a Priest in the Church of England. It was an interesting night. I decided that on this one it was prudent to listen long and speak short so that's what I thankfully managed to do (for about 40 minutes...). Helpfully, our gifted and gracious leader had prepared some of the key points from the Ordinal to facilitate our discussion.
What struck me was there was much talk of the 'role' and plenty of people used imagery of shepherds and the like. There was during all the early chat little mention of the Scriptures and the focus was much more on what it meant 'to us'. Some mentioned the issue of proclaiming absolution, some mentioned the 'us' to 'you' of the blessing and for those who were more Catholic the primary implication and change enacted by Priesting will be to minister the Eucharist. This is of course true for me too but we possibly have differing theological perspectives on what the Lord's Supper means.
After 40 minutes I felt rather like dear Brock, who I used to study with at Oxford, who would often pipe up in lectures with his stock phrase "I'm having a really hard time" and then he would tell us all why. Now, I had understood very little of what people had been talking about for it was not at all the experience of my own calling and mission and the purpose of leadership and discipleship as I read it in Scriptures. I wondered then how they would explain 'Priesting' to my friends who are not yet Christians. You see my friends have already come to my Ordination, seen me dressed up in my ridiculous Robes and wearing a dog-collar and have been calling me 'Rev' for the last nine months. I'm already a priest or Vicar or whatever else they think I am.
So I asked my question.
"When I ask my friends to my second Ordination how would you explain it to them and how do I explain what is happening?"
Immediately our leader came out with a rather lengthy sentence heaped with religious vernacular (it was really quite a good answer by the way) and then, pausing, said "No, well... I suppose that is a bit technical and religious" (or words in that vain).
There was then silence.
No one seemed able to explain to my friends who do not yet know Christ the purpose of Ordination to the Priesthood in a way that they could easily understand and in language they might be able to access. Not a little bit. Actually, in this instance not at all.
If we can't explain who we are and what we do no wonder nobody is coming.
This then is the challenge.
Now, having read the BCP Ordinal, I realize Thomas Cranmer is more than up for it and so am I. One of my life verses and the one that I has helped me understand my own calling and helped explain it to others is, as it so happens, the one Cranmer chooses for the Ordering of Priests. Do you know we may be on to something here....
For any who are considering becoming Priests, one phrase in particular struck me (by phrase I actually mean a very very long sentence).
We have good hope that you have well weighed and pondered these things with yourselves long before this time, and that you may clearly have determined, by God's grace, to give yourself wholly to this office, where upon it hath pleased God to call you:...
More thoughts on 'Priesting' will follow.