Our Tuesday morning's are always colourful! We meet together as a team of clergy and laity to pray and then to discuss business relating to our ministry in these villages. It is a very supportive group, and a reminder that this ministry business needs to be done together.
What do I mean by that? You may ask, and if you don't I will answer it anyway...
For years the Clergy of the Church of England were trained as 'lone rangers' - those who were called to be Clergymen (and it was men) were set up to try and deal with everything. Often they would have no more than two or three parishes (those were the days) and in urban and sub-urban areas only one parish, and they would run everything in those parishes, with the help of a couple of churchwardens (elected lay representatives) and a PCC (Parochial Church Council). Further back in the mists of time the Churchwardens were actually appointed one by the bishop and one by the Vicar, to support the minister in his ministry, but that moved on some time ago.
And everything 'religious' or vaguely spiritual was considered to be the work of the Parish Priest. Baptism and Confirmation preparation, Marriage preparation, Bereavement care, Pastoral visiting, Lent groups, Sunday services, preaching (and all the preparation that goes with that) and all the special services that happen throughout the life of a parish church. When a minister had only one church, or two small parishes, this was achievable, but it put all 'church' stuff in the hands of one person, pretty much. People let the 'Vicar' get on with it, and if they didn't want anything to do with the running of the church it was fine, it was done 'Vicariously' for them.
But the practicalities of that have changed, with less people offering for full time ordained ministry and a growth in population that model simply cannot work any more. Alongside that, the theological understanding that the Church is made up of all God's people, not just the clergy, has resurfaced, having been suppressed by an over-clericalised system for about 150 years, or more.
The church is a body, with Christ as the head - that means that no man or woman should take that role of being the sole leader. Yes, there is a place for someone to take responsibility for leadership within the church, there are roles which need to be handled by someone trained and called to minister, but the whole ministry of the church is the responsibility of the whole church. That means that i am delighted that we have capable and gifted members of our congregations who take an active part in the leading of services, who offer pastoral care to our communities in the name of the Church, who lead small groups, who work with the clergy in offering pastoral help, teaching, worship and everything else in our parishes. It's not an abdication of responsibility on the part of the Clergy, God knows we still have plenty to do, but it is an acknowledgment that we are all part of this ministry and mission of the Church with us Clergy having certain responsibilities - and hopefully an overview of what is going on - within that.
So Tuesday mornings is a good reminder of that shared calling, as we share vision, moan, laugh, think, pray, plan and organise together. The team in this group of parishes in which I minister is the best team I have ever been privileged to work in, there is a real sense of shared calling and shared responsibility and a desire to support and encourage one another, along with a sense of accountability to one another for our part in the ministry in these parishes. Long may it continue - and long live Tuesdays!