Last weekend I had the joy of being with the curates of this diocese as they gathered for a weekend of teaching, prayer and reflection; and next week I will be on retreat with those among them preparing for ordination as deacons and priests. This will be a significant landmark in their lives, but most importantly a significant landmark in the life of the Church, because ordination is primarily about the calling of the whole Body of Christ.
When those to be ordained priest and deacon stand in the cathedral and publicly say ‘yes’ to God, it is rooted in the ‘yes’ of baptism. It is why the ordination service begins with the words:
‘The Church is the Body of Christ, the people of God and the dwelling-place of the Holy Spirit. In baptism the whole Church is summoned to witness to God’s love and to work for the coming of his Kingdom’.
I pray that we will all keep these words in mind as we emerge into the next season and experiment locally with new patterns of worship, so that all expressions of our gathered worship, not least across multi-parish benefices, send out the youngest to the oldest into daily life to witness to God’s love and to work for the coming of God’s Kingdom. If our local expressions of Church do not have this at the heart then we are in danger of doing Church but not being Church.
As I listen to the stories of those coming to be ordained, and those once more coming to confirmation to confirm the promises that were made when they were baptised, often as tiny children, I am struck by the big ‘yes’ having often emerged from seemingly small words and encounters which have been fanned into flame by the work of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus Christ’s words as told in last Sunday’s gospel reading (Mark 4:31 – 32) speak of the tiny seed growing into an enormous tree, whose branches become a place of welcome, hospitality, life, and home, for the birds of the air. Here is a picture of the Kingdom of God which begins with the small.
As the ordinands prepare to say ‘yes’ to serving Christ in their calling, may these coming weeks and months be a season for a fresh ‘yes’ to God from us all, from the youngest to the oldest. It is perhaps good to remember that this is not only the time of year for ordinations but it is also the time of year for our primary school leavers’ services, taking place online at a school near you. It is a beautiful time of worship as the children look back with thanks and are sent out to the next chapter of their lives, amid so much that is uncertain and unknown. Yet children are often far better than adults at authentically living their faith in the small things of everyday life and being Church among the people and places of their week, including home and school.
As we pray for our 15 new priests and six new deacons, and all those participating in a leavers’ service in their school, let us continue to pray for one another that we would have the courage, from the tiniest to the tallest, to say ‘yes’ to God afresh in our commitment to follow Christ, and to be expectant about what can take root and grow in the stuff of our everyday lives as we seek to witness to God’s love and to work for the coming of God’s Kingdom.
With my thanks and prayers as ever,
PS: On the subject of saying ‘yes’, please consider …
- Joining the next online LIFE prayer gathering on Tuesday 6 July 5.30pm where Jo Wetherall will lead us in praying for children and families as part of the big picture. Even if you’ve never prayed before with other people beyond an act of formal worship. All you need is 30 minutes and a desire to pray for tiny seeds to grow into large trees…
Follow this link to join the Zoom meeting https://zoom.us/j/91765392773?pwd=Ujc4aVVvVFprOE9GOFdIK3VudlU5UT09
- Encouraging people to stand for Diocesan Synod who will reflect the diversity of the Church in terms of age, colour, voice and background. That may be you or it may be you encouraging someone else. Nominations need to happen in the next few days! The video below shows more about what General Synod is, and the video linked in the ‘One thing to watch’ section below explains why you might want to stand.