I am grateful for the feedback I've received on my post yesterday about ministry, and on reading it back (as you do after a bit of a rant) there was one statement I particularly wanted to say something about. Actually there are lots of parts I could expand on, but one thing I think bears a bit of scrutiny.
I said that Clergy are 'defined by their education and the way they dress'. What I meant by this is that people often defer to me in 'matters spiritual' because they know that I have some kind of training for this ministry business. I also have a fair amount of experience, and have made my share of mistakes and hopefully learned from them. I think that trained and resourced members of the Church are crucial, though it isn't just Clergy that fulfil those criteria - we have gifted and dedicated Readers, and various members of our communities with oodles of training and experience under their belt. My experience of Readers in the three Dioceses I have worked in has been that their training has been excellent, and in places (particularly with regard to preaching and homiletics) better than some of the training I received. At the Theological College I attended the Theological teaching was excellent, the pastoral training very good indeed, the liturgical and worship leading treaching was good too and overall I felt very well supported, but it seemed to be just expected that I could preach and that the parish I was attached to for two years in Cambridge and my wonderful training Parish of All Saint's Hampton would tell me if my preaching was too grim....
Straying a bit there, but wanted to say that to define Clergy by 'you're trained to do that' - a phrase I have heard a number of times over the past fourteen years - is to both limit the involvement of the whole people of God (see last post for that rant) and to assume that somehow training might equip a person to lead. But more on that in a mo.
As for 'the way we dress'. I do tend to wear a clerical collar when on duty, which is most of the time, for worship I usually wear robes, not big flouncy stuff but traditional Anglican robes and a few bits that have worked themselves into usage (Cassock Alb, Chasuble) in the past few decades. I like robes because they point beyond me and my dress style (or lack of) and say that "this is the worship leader (or, as I prefer, 'lead worshipper')" without making a great statement about who the person inside the robes is. Hmmm, that might be a discussion for another post.... I wear a clerical shirt most of the time because it says that as a representative of the Church I am available to people and hopefully just reminds folk there are still a few of us involved in Church. On a purely pragmatic level it opens quite a few doors - metaphorically speaking, and even literally once when I lost a key - though some would argue it closes some too!
But of course what really defines a minister, lay or ordained, is their calling from God. In the Anglican Church that calling has usually been tested, recognised and affirmed by the process of training, ordination and/or licensing. I do believe there is a place for Ordained ministry - my frustration is when Ordained ministers are seen as the only valid expression of Christian ministry. We definitely need to move beyond that one!
I hope this conversation will continue. I've still got lots of things I probably need to explain and plenty of holes in my argument and am always open to correction, debate, and every now and then a bit of a disagreement. Thanks for comments so far, here and on FB and Twitter - Keep the Faith, then share it around a bit!