BISHOP TOM RAY — Pt. 2, In His Own Words

by Edward L. Lee, Jr.

http://www.ecfvp.org/vestry-papers/article/49/revolution-brews-in-the-baptismal-font

Tom Ray, bishop of the Diocese of Northern Michigan from 1982 to 1999 died in early February this year. He was 83. In his episcopacy he pioneered and implemented what he called Mutual Baptismal Ministry whereby congregations of any size and location could be fully and canonically empowered by the raising up from within all the ministers and ministries needed to be an asset-based community that was, in his words, “baptized into mission through ministry.”(Total Ministry is its short-hand title.) This especially included the identifying, training, and ordaining of parishioners to provide all the sacramental needs of the parish without depending on a retired or bi-vocational or Sunday supply priest who, in Tom’s words, “confects the sacraments for the parish instead of them being sanctified by the baptized community itself.”

In some Anglican/Episcopal circles this model of doing mission and ministry could and does rattle the ecclesiastical sensibilities of what it means to be the church. It challenged, and challenges, the traditional institutional order grounded and steeped in what Tom identified as “debilitating patriarchy, hierarchy and clericalism.”

In his own words: “Baptism is the transformational event. That’s what changes you. But we have taken all the solemnity of baptism and squeezed and squeezed and squeezed everything out of it and put it into ordination so that now ordination means everything and baptism means very little.” Tom once observed, “I have often thought that if baptismal formation took three years, and preparation for ordination took only three skimpy sessions, then we would indeed be experiencing and participating in a revolution.”

Stated more bluntly by Tom Ray, “Mutual baptismal ministry pushes back against the hierarchical infantilizing of adult Christians who are considered second class citizens if they are not ordained.”

But what characterizes this model and form of total ministry rooted in baptism? Again, in his own words: “My experience of renewal and transformation within the church comes in congregations that take responsibility for their own life and mission and ministry whereby collaboration replaces delegation by a designated usually ordained authority; where decisions are made by consensus, not rules of order; and where leadership is mutual and circular, not hierarchical.”

However, a baptismally alert and alive community that functions through collaboration, consensus, and circular leadership is not an end in and of itself. It’s not just a different institutional construct for its own sake. It exists for the full realization of what it means to do ministry in daily life.

In Tom Ray’s own words: “Christians imbued with the call to ministry as a result of their baptism, not their education or ordination, can bring all that to help and energize our lives so that we can live thoughtfully, sacramentally, diaconally, priestly, and apostolically—at home and at work and in  the neighborhood—then all of a sudden our Christianity is not something we do on Sunday, but it touches us everywhere at all times and in all places.”

Advertisements

Name it, claim it

by Fletcher Lowe

“I really like my work here.” the dental assistant said as I sat patiently waiting for the dentist to appear. “I like what I do and the people I work with and the patients—at least most of them, including you,” she continued.

Francesca Balajadia, Red Cross volunteer, is participating in the Red Cross Dental Assistant Training program. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Alesia Goosic)

I said, “It sounds like you have a real ministry here.” There was a pause, and then she said: “Really?  I never thought of it like that, but maybe what I do really is ministry.”

“Well.” I said,” it certainly sounds like a ministry to me.”

This is not an isolated event.  There are so many people working so many jobs that really are their ministry.  We just need to help them name and own it.  In so doing we put another dimension in what they do: That it is more than a job, really a ministry, God-given, through which they live out their faith in their work.

Christians of all sorts and conditions are doing ministry in all kinds of places and positions.  Our role is to help them name what they are doing as ministry and to help them own it.  What about the Uber driver or the ER nurse or the cleaning person in our office building or the receptionist in that office or the teller at our bank or the clerk in the clothing store…. The very act of affirming what a person does, thanking them for their work, can begin a short conversation that leads to naming what they do as ministry.

So often we limit the use of words like ministry and vocation and calling to those who are ordained, whereas all the Baptized are called to live into their Baptism in their daily lives, which is their ministry.  We need to help folks make that connection by naming it, so they may own it.

As Martin Luther once remarked, “The housemaid on her knees scrubbing the floor is doing a work as pleasing in the sight of the Almighty as the priest on his knees before the altar saying Mass.” We have a mission: To help the “housemaids” whose lives intersect with ours—even briefly—to own their work as ministry.