by Fletcher Lowe
“…that we might receive a faithful pastor who will care for your people and equip us for our ministries….” Parish transition prayer (bold mine)
The congregation which my wife and I attend is in the search process for a new rector. Every Sunday in services and hopefully privately during the week, we offer prayer for the search, a phrase from which is quoted above. It is my hope and prayer that she/he will see “equipping us for our ministries” as a top priority. All too often rectors get caught up in their own ministry of running a parish and fail to help empower the laity in their own ministries – the every-day, daily-life ministries, in particular. After all, don’t we go to church in order to be the church?
This past Holy Week underscored that for me in a new way. On Maundy Thursday at noon the bishop led the diocesan clergy in the service of Reaffirmation of Ordination Vows. Not only did we have the servant example of Jesus in washing the disciples’ feet, but the collect spoke directly: Give your grace…to all who are called to any office and ministry…. This came as a reminder that all the Baptized are called to ministry.
At the Easter Vigil we affirmed that calling as the baptized in our daily lives as we renewed our Baptismal Vows to proclaim, seek and serve, strive….
The collect for the second Sunday of Easter puts it another way: Grant that all who are reborn (Baptized) into the fellowship of Christ’s Body, may show forth in their lives what they profess by their faith….
The message is clear: Vocation and ministry are the province of all the Baptized, not just the clergy, that each one of us has a calling that we show forth in our lives what we profess by our faith….
As we do, our faith hits the street, our liturgy meets our life, our Sunday connects with our Monday. That’s why the Dismissal is the most important part of our liturgy. What else is the music and the readings and the prayers and the sermon and the bread and wine for but to equip us for our ministries beyond the church doors.