A wealth of ministries
St Peter's Rectory, November 2001
It will not have escaped anyone’s notice that our ministry team at St Peter’s has burgeoned over the past few months. It has been as enriching as it has been unexpected! Well, it has not been entirely unexpected. We have been joined by Fred Connell at the suggestion of the Bishop, and by John and Sylvia Puxty who joined St Peter’s just over a year ago and have, this past month, been licensed as Readers in the parish. And of course, in addition, we have been working towards the uniting of our parish with All Saints, and have thus been able to welcome both Gilly Myers and Clarence Rickards to lead services and to preach for us. So suddenly, in addition to the six ministers already ‘on the books’, we have another five people participating in our worship (as well as our St John’s student Shona Lillie, whose ministry here during September was especially welcomed by Eileen and myself).
To have such a range of people in leadership roles is an enormous blessing. I recognise though that, on the surface, it can also be a bit disruptive for some who have come to expect continuity and familiarity in what is offered at St Peter’s. It will take time to settle down, and it is important to be quite clear that it is a challenge to those who are joining us just as much as for those who are receiving them. I know that all who lead worship at St Peter’s are interested only in offering the best possible, both in liturgy and in preaching. But each person brings their own personality, their own experience and their own insights which will be an integral part of what they offer. Preaching styles will be different; theological tradition will vary, the language of praying and ways of leading worship will be diverse. I want to encourage everyone to celebrate that diversity. The exercise we have undertaken of introducing Common Worship has shown very clearly the diversity of expectation within the congregation. While some will find some styles more difficult to come to terms with than others, I know that each member of the team is contributing something special and valuable to the whole.
Diversity is both the strength and the weakness of the Anglican tradition. It is weak when individual churches (or dioceses, or provinces) become so immersed in one tradition, and so convinced of its superiority over other traditions, that it ignores and devalues the depths of faith and action to be found in other traditions. It is so easy to become complacent in the belief that ‘what we do’ is best, and the plea for continuity - quite understandable - can be thin cover for a desire not to be disturbed or challenged. You see I may believe that I am an unashamed radical, but others will see me as wishy-washy, or heretical, or pathetically conservative; and unless I am open to hearing the challenge and reflecting on it and praying through it, I am closing myself off to the possibility of the promptings of God.
In our ministry team we now have a great range of gifts, skills and experience. This enriches our church life, but is also an important resource in a deanery which, like most deaneries, is under pressure in staffing terms. We are therefore in the enormously fortunate position of being able to offer support to other churches as well, and this will mean that from time to time Eileen or I will be away from St Peter’s, and we are already doing this on a fairly regular basis at All Saints’. So I want to invite you to be more than patient with this situation. Be thankful that St Peter’s has attracted such a range of people who want to offer their lives in ministry, rejoice in our diversity, and together as one people let us all offer to God the best of what we are.