Thursday, 17 March 2011


Every time I hear terms like 'in ministry' or 'the ministry', I begin to fume. It's a conflation of ministry with ordained ministry, which may be traditional - from the days when everything revolved round the minister - but which can't be justified. As Paul points out, God calls people to different roles - or maybe he just calls them, and they work out the details for themselves. He doesn't seem to call quakers to ordained ministry, or Methodists to the papacy, and I suspect our choice of role, and the type of church community we create for ourselves, has some sort of influence somewhere.

So we have church cleaners, secretaries, treasurers, property stewards, church stewards, communion stewards, book stewards, circuit stewards, worship leaders, local preachers, and so on. Every denomination will have its own list, and we're always inventing new roles. So what are we doing allowing a small group of people - maybe half a percent or so of the total - to hive themselves off with the assumption that their specific form of ministry is somehow special or normative? They may or may not be thinking that, but it's what the language they use implies. We're all called to ministry, in the fullest possible sense of the word, and no role is superior, except, of course, that cleaners are a lot more useful and practical than preachers. All we do is stand up and woffle, yet we, along with the ordained, are the only ones supposed to have a 'call'.

God creates us all, God calls us all, God equips us all. We need to celebrate every ministry, not just one, with all the rest treated as afterthoughts.


  1. All I can say to that, as an ordained clergy, is "I'm glad I went into hospital chaplaincy".

    From the other side of the fence, it's actually very difficult to get folk to do what needs to be done. And no, I don't necessarily mean filling in the open vacancies, but actually fulfilling the needs of the church.

    As to preaching being useless, I actually spent a lot of time preparing sermons and services. Preaching once a week - or five times a week during Holy Week - isn't actually all that easy to do. I tried hard to read and find different topics to preach on that would be of help to people. Preaching weekly is hard work. I'm sorry you think it's useless. I guess the question is what would be more helpful? I certainly wouldn't want to spend a lot of time every week doing something that people dislike so much.

    Also from the other side of the fence, we do hear an awful lot from British Methodist members about how useless we are. I went into hospital chaplaincy because I had to move back to the US to be near my elderly parents. I loved circuit ministry and I believe that I was valued there. But if you think we don't know that a lot of members hold us in (hopefully friendly) contempt, we do actually.

    I agree with you that ministry is for everyone. Now if we could all just value each other, wouldn't that be great?

  2. I was turned down for a post this week partly because I didn't say at the interview that God was calling me to their parish. I told the bloke who called me with the bad news that I would never be so arrogant as to state God's intentions in such a definite way and that if I did, and was then turned down, I would be making a liar out of God. His reply was that I should have said that God was calling me to explore the possibility that God was calling me to that parish.