Victoria Station is worse than ever. In the rush hour the crowds shuffle through entrances in columns of eight or ten people wide in and out of the station. Ten minutes of that is enough to create a yearning for a bit of open space or isolation and a respite from the constant bumping and jostling.
And in that is one of the most poignant conundrums of the city.
Crowds of people desperate for space and privacy and yet as individuals lonely and yearning for fellowship.
So why do we choose so many people for the role of Lay Minister who look, sound and act like partially licensed parish priests?
Wouldn’t it be great to have Lay Ministers who aren’t chosen because they can fill the church service rota but because they can fulfil a specific role outside the church?
In this schema, the ideal Lay Minister would be:
Extra-church – focused on an area of ministry outside the church where it would be valuable to be trained and commissioned
Representative – of the church in a formal way, probably because they are working within an organisation
Accountable – in a personal relationship with a partner within the church
In this schema, the ideal Lay Minister would not be:
A mini-priest within the church, a sort of priethood-lite.
I’m not denying that the work of the priest should be shared, and that some Lay Ministry is required to sustain the ministry of the church week by week. I’m just reflecting that I’ve never seen a Lay Minister who has been trained and commissioned to a ministry outside the church.
Let’s have Lay Ministers who work in schools, football teams, or with responsibility for particular High Street shops, or health clubs.
Charles Landry thinks deeply and writes eloquently about the formation of cities, and in his book The Art of City-Making he summarises his research into the characteristics, attitudes and qualities of admired city-makers. This is the list:\r\n
An ability to cross boundaries and think laterally
The ability to pick out the essence of a professional position and to see how it relates to other aspects
Practical and open to new ideas
An openness of thinking and willingness to hear other things
To be able to listen and hear
Open to suggestion and challenge
To be able to bring out the best in others, to facilitate, to draw together arguments and attitudes
People who know their place, have walked its streets, can feel what it is like
A sense of vision combined with realism , a patience garnered from having experience, a mix of drive and focus on the nitty-gritty, a tenacity to see things through.
\r\nLandry goes on to point out that people with these qualities can be found inside and outside the urban professions. Creative city making is not an exclusive professional club.\r\n\r\nLooking at it from the perspective of my own institution (the Church of England) that has every square inch of every city in the UK covered by a parish, and in some way therefore by a priest responsible for the spiritual and well being of that area, these qualities of city and place making described by Landry need to be found in more individuals in more dioceses and parishes if the church is to contribute to creative city-making and to help build a deep sense of settlement and connection within city boundaries.
After Judas had gone his own way and thrown away God’s gift of purpose for his life, the disciples selected two candidates to compete for the missing post of apostle and threw dice. Matthias ‘won’, according to the story.\r\n\r\nBut I wonder if they had waited – rather than select the best candidates around at the time, and had prayed rather than thrown dice, whether Paul, who seemed to be God’s choice, would have come into the church sooner?\r\n\r\nIt seems that their criteria for selection – length of service, the new candidate should have been there from the beginning – was nowhere near the criteria God used in choosing Paul.\r\n\r\nWhich reminds me of Neil Cole’s comment, that the leaders of the church of the future are no yet in the church.
The last question the disciples asked of Jesus was about nationalism.\r\n
“Are you going to restore the kingdom of Israel now?
\r\nJesus’ response tells us that they had missed the point of the previous three years.\r\n\r\nThe last words Jesus said to the leaders of his emerging church framed their work in local, regional, national and global terms.\r\n
“…you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, even to the ends of the world”
\r\nWe need to globalists, not nationalists or localists.