This Michaelmas (the feast of St. Michael and All Angels) I will be celebrating 10 years of ordained ministry. As always, when looking back it seems no time at all since my ordination in Christ Church Cathedral Oxford. But again, when I look at all the experience I have gained and my own ministerial development, I know the process has been over a lengthy period of time and is still ongoing!
10 years on
Ministry today, 10 years on, has a subtly different feel to it. Even in a relatively short time span, the style and delivery of ministry has had to change to accommodate the different patterns of life as we know it today. Clergy provision is now much less than it was as parishes are amalgamated into teams and benefices. No longer is the model of a local vicar with responsibility for just one church community viable.
In comparison with some teams and benefices, we in BG are relatively well provided for in terms of clergy. In our own parish we are still able to maintain a reasonable pattern of services that meet the needs of our local village communities.
Many urban and inner city churches, by necessity, are undergoing a metamorphosis as they no longer can rely on a steady income generated by a stable and strong congregation. Diversification into community centres on weekdays seems to be one way forward and draws people into the worshipping community. When I was a curate at Dedworth in Windsor,the church centre there had both a community church focus and outreach which worked well in that area.
Village communities have always looked to the church as the focus for celebrations of the seasons, of births, marriages and funerals and for being gathering places for sharing together.
I hope this cycle of provision continues to be lively and well presented, so that all will feel welcome to join in the life of the church. Churches are like families - full of all sorts of characters with needs and strong feelings about what they want from their church.
As I reflect on my years as a priest 1 return to the vows I made. I renew my dedication to Christ as a priest in the Church of God and to work as a shepherd and servant among the people where I am placed. Preaching and teaching the word of God and celebrating the sacraments of the new covenant, ie baptism and holy communion, as well as the pastoral care of the flock, are the bedrock of priestly ministry.
My thanks Your support and encouragement is so important to us your clergy and I thank you all for being a loyal and loving flock. Ours is not an easy vocation but I can't think of a more fulfilling one. In giving we receive in abundance so many blessings.
In today's world of uncertainty, we need more than ever priests who are down to earth and understand the demands of daily life. We are here to listen and walk alongside you and to pray for the needs of the church community, its outreach and the wider world to which we are all so closely inter-linked.
As I attend a service of thanksgiving (on the Sunday nearest to Michaelmas) for the last 10 years of ministry I ask for your prayers for the ministry and worship in BG.