Advent III 2012 Extra – Ministry Sunday Extra – Bob Capper
Advent III is called Ministry Sunday, because the traditional collect reminds us of John the Baptist preparing the way for Jesus and sees this as a model of ongoing Christian ministry. Please see the Archbishop’s letter on this. In recent years I have also taken this opportunity to share some thoughts as I have a passion for the continuation of faithful ministry within the Church in Wales and in other parts of God’s vineyard. This year I would simply like to make a few simple points from the experience of the Archbishop of Canterbury elect, Bishop Justin Welby:
- He became a Christian through the witness of fellow students at university – let’s do all we can take the opportunities available at crucial periods of people’s lives to gracefully share the good news. Give thanks for the work of CUs etc.
- He worked in the oil industry for 11 years – Christians are called to serve God in all sorts of professions. In Bishop Justin’s case, he felt at a certain stage God was calling him to ordained ministry, most will continue to serve the Lord in equally important ways in the callings God has given them.
- His faith and ministry were nurtured in lively, outward looking churches, becoming a lay leader at Holy Trinity Brompton. It is essential that people are drawn into ministry, including different forms of leadership ministry, as part of the regular experience of church life – how can we foster this more, especially nurturing leaders of the future? The Church in Wales review suggests much more diverse patterns of ministry in the future, where pastors of local churches may even be lay folk, but people will have to be willing to take the time to do appropriate training.
- When he first approached his local bishop about ordination he was told “There is no place for you in the Church of England”! Sometimes we need to persevere even in the face of discouragements, no matter where they come from. The whole church family should be involved in helping people to discern their calling, and in seeing what God is doing in people’s lives and calling them to. The church and its ministry belong to Christ. Pray for those who have the difficult responsibility of assessing whether the church should accept people for ordination training – no doubt the good bishop got it right with other folk and saved them from the unhappiness of finding themselves in a stressful calling which wasn’t right for them!
- With his wife, went through terrible dark times when their 7-month old daughter was killed in a car crash. Trust God in dark times, do not let go of him, God does not promise that Christians – including leaders – will avoid suffering, rather that we will face trials in this life but see God working too, ministry often grows out of suffering (2 Corinthians 1 v.4).
- Through his work gained experience of another culture (Nigeria) and the different perspectives that gives, also getting to know one of the largest and most vibrant churches of the Anglican communion, and the issues that are important to Christians in other parts of the world. Is God calling you to shorter or longer term mission abroad, or maybe to serve Christ overseas in a ‘secular’ profession?
- Once again – when God has called – has said ‘yes’: even if his first reaction was “oh no!”. This is the season when we think of Mary’s ‘yes’. What is God calling you to?