Models of Ministry

31 January 2011

Cothay Manor, Somerset

I have recently read a fascinating book entitled ‘If you meet George Herbert on the road kill him’.  It is an eye catching title.  Herbert was a great poet, socialite and priest.  His poetry is sublime and his book ‘The Country Parson’, offering practical advice to clergy,  has influenced generations.

 The problem is that Herbert’s view of parish work is idyllic and cannot take into account the pressures today’s clergy are under.

The well established model of study in the morning, visiting in the afternoon and meetings in the evening is a sure way to ministerial stress and breakdown whilst it does little for the Church in an age that is both secular and spiritual with little allegiance to faith communities.

I was taught the three fold model of ministry, pastor, priest and prophet.  Congregations love a pastor but expect her/him to be a preacher too.  Killinger once wrote that a preacher who is a pastor is a preacher indeed.  But worship is stagnant without a priestly element and preaching is stale if it does not include prophetic judgment..

Rowan Williams has suggested an alternative three fold approach, Watchman, Witness, Weaver.  The Watchman keeps a look out for approaching dangers and is duty-bound to warn the people of any serious threat to their community.  The Witness is the one who conveys the message beyond the community whilst the Weaver brings together the various strands that are present within the community.

I still adore some of Herbert’s poems but can’t overlook the fact that the man who inspired clergy to imitate his model of ministry actually died three years after taking up his role.  The model didn’t stand the test of time.  So we should not feel obliged to expect it to do so today.

A household for all

4 January 2011

The popularity of the TV series ‘Downton Abbey’ and the more recently revived ‘Upstairs Downstairs’ is fascinating.  Is it a simple case of nostalgia or is there more to it?

If we wanted a more accurate account of life in a large house a century ago, in particular the relations between the gentry and their servants, we would do worse than looking at Isabel Colegate’s atmospheric novel ‘The Shooting Party’ which was faithfully adapted into a film of the same title.

The TV series mentioned earlier were much more fanciful in terms of how ‘upstairs’ related to ‘downstairs’.  So why were we gripped by the programmes?

I suggest that the manner in which people from very different walks of life worked together to make an effective household appealed to a deep desire within us all; not that we all should ‘know or place’, but that each is valued, irrespective of their background, upbringing, standing in society, differing abilities and contribution.

These near ‘fanciful’ portrayals of early twentieth century life very much address our twenty first century need to be appreciated and the deep down, often sub conscious, belief that we need to work collaboratively to ensure a safer, more effective ‘household’, the household  representing the community, nation or world.

There is no better ‘household’ for fulfilling this need and desire than the Christian Church, one of the last places in the present age where all, and I mean ALL, are welcomed and have the possibility of transformation.