One of the highlights of Synod for me is the ministry recognition service. This year marks 40 years since I candidated for ministry, so perhaps the event will hold even greater significance for me.
I am sometimes asked why we single out ministers for this service and do not recognise lay people’s service in the Church in the same way. While we do recognise the service of lay people at the meeting of Synod and in many other ways, this service is a recognition that “since the Church lives by the power of the Word, it is assured that God, who has never failed to provide witness to that word, will, through Christ and in the power of the Holy Spirit, call and set apart members of the Church to be ministers of the Word. These will preach the Gospel, administer the sacraments and exercise pastoral care so that all may be equipped for their particular ministries, thus maintaining the apostolic witness to Christ in the Church.” (Basis, para 14)
So the task of the Church, in Christ, is to call and set apart some people to this task. For this reason the “call” is tested vigorously by the Church and must be constantly reaffirmed by the one ordained, and the Church, at various points in the ministry journey. There should be no self-aggrandisement, no claims for preferential treatment, no “career path”. Instead, at all times, there should be evidence of humility and a servant heart. This does not always sit well with other contemporary notions of leadership. Perhaps it was for this reason that a wiser, older minister passed on to me the advice he had been given: “Avoid a call to the ministry for as long as you can!” Obviously I didn’t avoid it very long, as I was 18 years old when I candidated!
There are certainly times when our ministers let us down. There is no denying that. But I am glad that, at the Synod meeting, we can celebrate lives dedicated to ministry [Click here to read stories of those embarking on their ministry journey]. Please continue to pray for and treasure our ministers. Encourage them to “live up to their high calling in Christ”.
We received a note from Rev. Bill Clarke, shortly before his death, to say that he was too unwell to make it to the recognition service this year.
He wanted us to get the facts of his diverse ministerial service straight for the booklet, but I also want to honour him by sharing the conclusion to his brief note:
I reflect how fortunate I am that I have been upheld by the Lord Jesus Christ in such diverse situations, ministering to Aboriginal, ethnic, traditional and new-formed pioneering Congregations. Supported by so many wonderful lay people who with me pressed toward the high mark of the calling of Christ Jesus. He deserves any glory due anywhere in my life and ministry.
I am thankful to have been allowed over 50 years of ministry in a denomination that supported me within Congregations which offered an abundance of love to me.
My wife, children and grandchildren have supported me with love. Yet I want to conclude with Paul’s affirmation that I may be found in Christ, not having a righteousness of my own but one that comes from faith in Christ. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and sharing in his sufferings by becoming like Him in His death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
Amen to that!
The General Secretary, Rev. Dr Andrew Williams