Thoughts on ministry: one year in

This coming weekend I will be spending with others ordained into the ministry of word and sacraments in the United Reformed Church around a year ago. We will be engaged in our end of year one reflection, part of Education for Ministry 2. This has encouraged me to take stock and look back, so here are some preliminary thoughts:

1) I really like what I’m doing. I have never before felt so at home in my life. That doesn’t mean that I never find it difficult, I often do. Nor does it mean that I don’t suffer from anxieties about it, I constantly worry about whether I’m doing a “good enough” job of living up to my responsibilities as a minister, but I have no real doubt about whether what I’m doing is worth doing or that I should be doing it.

2) I feel more blessed than I can express to have a supportive and capable spouse. I can’t imagine living this life as a single person, which doesn’t mean that I don’t think that can be the right thing for other people, just that I’m quite sure that I’m (also) called to the roles of husband and father and that my two vocations depend on one another.

3) I find myself drawn to a much more “missional” ministry than I had expected. I started as somebody rather suspicious of the rhetoric of the “mission shaped church”. I believed, and continue to believe, that an over-emphasis on mission (however that is understood) can lead to the displacement of important aspects of the church’s life, especially worship as an activity of the people directed towards God rather than as an exercise in spiritual entertainment or even in edification directed towards the people. We serve God first and that service retains its sacrificial aspect (“our sacrifice of praise”). However I have come to appreciate the importance of responding to God’s love in service (“mission”) much more keenly.

4) I have found serving in two churches more of a challenge than I anticipated. A properly contextual ministry will be different in every congregation, so when you’re serving in two this is two different ministries, not one ministry in two places. This has been something of a struggle, since I have sometimes found myself doing things in one place that would be appropriate only in the other. There are, of course, many common elements but going backwards and forwards between two styles of ministry has sometimes been difficult.

5) It requires a conscious effort to cultivate the proper patience and modesty (humility) that waits to see what is required of one and which remembers that it is wrong to impose measures of success on a ministry or on a church that come to it from anywhere other than prayerful discernment.

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