Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Caption Contest: Snail's Pace

Saw this and it made me smile, and wonder what the animal was on too, and as I did I thought, now this is one for the clever people who like coming up with smart explanations :

Clergy - what should we pay for? [3]

I have received a great question regarding this thread, it goes like this:

"Are we facing the problems we have regarding paying for clergy because of the Clericalism of the Church of England. Do other denominations suffer less than us because they have leadership styles that draw upon all the members rather than one leader or group of leaders?"

I guess the first step here is to assess what the other churches do and a quick finger in the air shows me that even where the church style is congregational we generally find that leaders (Pastor, Minister, Vicar or Elder) are paid and unpaid. Some of the congregations pay directly for their leaders and where the ability to do this is limited then the leader is unpaid, where there is money to pay for the leader/s they do - it's as simple as that!

I struggle with clericalism but then again I struggle with much of the anticlerical stuff too. There was a bit of a wally who used to talk about taking the grip of the clergy off of the stuff that is Church and handing it back to the people (a sentiment with which I am in full agreement by the way). The reality was that whilst they sought a decline in ordained clergy and the empowering of members, what was happening was that we saw no coherent leadership or planning and panic mode recovery of situations where nothing had been done. I am all for leaders who lead regardless of renumeration issues but also return to the number of Elim ministers I have worked with whose one desire was to be able to stop their day job and concentrate all their time on the ministry before them. This desire to be able to do the stuff without the distraction of a day job seems to indicate that the stipend is a sound concept.

Now, oddly enough, my original ambition was to be a minister who worked in the world as saw the world as my parish - as happened with the train and the church it became and the people with whom I engaged in the workplace - but I was persuaded to take the stipendiary route and have to say I have no regrets at this.

The reality though is that it's not about clericalism but about paying for the privilege of having someone spin the plates, visit the sick and generally get stuck in on a 7*24*365 basis (although I do feel some sell their vocations a little short regarding this, but that's for a different discussion) and they do this because they have been 'called out' (ekklesia) to do that roll.

The majority of the churches, groups, denominations and settings I have looked at pay for their leaders when they can and some do it even when they can't because of the generosity of others through relationships or by means of the Common Purse (Parish Share). Some groupings, denominations and the like do perhaps suffer less because they work on the basis that the ability and desire to pay, for this engenders the ability in others, is the key to whether payment is made and so a cash strapped church is freed from the need to pay what they cannot afford. The problem is (and I have just run someone to check as they have an unpaid pastor) is that those who rely upon lay led leadership do find that the tensions between 'ruling elders' and the rest and the lack of cohesive direction is a price that is paid when the price of leaders is not paid. A real conundrum that isn't it?

So the answer to the question appears to be, "No, the problem isn't that we pay the clergy to do stuff, it's a much deeper issue than that and looks at changing church needs, the ability to pay, numbers of people coming forward to be ordained and a good many other issues. It's not about clericalism - it's much wider, deeper and demanding that that alone."

With this I find more to add to the scales and more to to be considered in this evermore weighty issue.


Made me smile and then made me pray: Do you think they're friendly?

I have to be honest and say that this raised a smile this morning.

It also reminded me of a set of heroes that I have had for many years through reading the book 'Through Gates of Splendour'. The book details the work of a bunch of men who sought to bring the Gospel to the natives of the Ecuadorian rain forests and paid the ultimate price.

A prayer:

Almighty God, who called your faithful servants Nate Saint, Ed Mccully, Jim Elliot, Peter Fleming, and Roger Youderian to be witnesses and martyrs to the Huaorani peoples in the rain forests of Ecuador, and by their labors and suffering raised up a people for your own possession: Pour forth your Holy Spirit upon your Church in every land, that by the service and sacrifice of many, your holy Name may be glorified and your kingdom enlarged; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Precious in your sight, O Lord, is the death of your saints, Whose faithful witness, by your providence, has its great reward: We give you thanks for your martyrs Nate Saint, Ed McCully, Jim Elliot, Peter Fleming, and Roger Youderian, who purchased with their blood a hearing for the Gospel among the forest-dwellers of Ecuador, especially the Huaorani people, and for their wives, who shared with them in their work and witness; and we pray that with them we also may obtain the crown of righteousness which is laid up for all who love the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Morning Prayer - September 30

Jerome, Translator of the Scriptures, Teacher of the Faith, 420

Psalm 32
Happy the one whose transgression is forgiven, and whose sin is covered. Happy the one to whom the Lord imputes no guilt, and in whose spirit there is no guile. For I held my tongue; my bones wasted away through my groaning all the day long. Your hand was heavy upon me day and night; my moisture was dried up like the drought in summer. Then I acknowledged my sin to you and my iniquity I did not hide.

I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,’ and you forgave the guilt of my sin. Therefore let all the faithful make their prayers to you in time of trouble; in the great water flood, it shall not reach them. You are a place for me to hide in; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with songs of deliverance.

‘I will instruct you and teach you in the way that you should go; I will guide you with my eye. Be not like horse and mule which have no understanding; whose mouths must be held with bit and bridle, or else they will not stay near you.’

Great tribulations remain for the wicked, but mercy embraces those who trust in the Lord. Be glad, you righteous, and rejoice in the Lord; shout for joy, all who are true of heart.

Psalm 36
Sin whispers to the wicked, in the depths of their heart; there is no fear of God before their eyes. They flatter themselves in their own eyes that their abominable sin will not be found out. The words of their mouth are unrighteous and full of deceit; they have ceased to act wisely and to do good. They think out mischief upon their beds and have set themselves in no good way; nor do they abhor that which is evil.

Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens and your faithfulness to the clouds. Your righteousness stands like the strong mountains, your justice like the great deep; you, Lord, shall save both man and beast.

How precious is your loving mercy, O God! All mortal flesh shall take refuge
under the shadow of your wings. They shall be satisfied with the abundance of your house; they shall drink from the river of your delights. For with you is the well of life and in your light shall we see light.

O continue your loving-kindness to those who know you and your righteousness to those who are true of heart. Let not the foot of pride come against me, nor the hand of the ungodly thrust me away. There are they fallen, all who work wickedness. They are cast down and shall not be able to stand.

1 Kings 8.63-9.9
Solomon offered as sacrifices of well-being to the Lord twenty-two thousand oxen and one hundred and twenty thousand sheep. So the king and all the people of Israel dedicated the house of the Lord. The same day the king consecrated the middle of the court that was in front of the house of the Lord; for there he offered the burnt-offerings and the grain-offerings and the fat pieces of the sacrifices of well-being, because the bronze altar that was before the Lord was too small to receive the burnt-offerings and the grain-offerings and the fat pieces of the sacrifices of well-being.

So Solomon held the festival at that time, and all Israel with him—a great assembly, people from Lebo-hamath to the Wadi of Egypt—before the Lord our God, for seven days. On the eighth day he sent the people away; and they blessed the king, and went to their tents, joyful and in good spirits because of all the goodness that the Lord had shown to his servant David and to his people Israel.

When Solomon had finished building the house of the Lord and the king’s house and all that Solomon desired to build, the Lord appeared to Solomon a second time, as he had appeared to him at Gibeon. The Lord said to him, ‘I have heard your prayer and your plea, which you made before me; I have consecrated this house that you have built, and put my name there for ever; my eyes and my heart will be there for all time. As for you, if you will walk before me, as David your father walked, with integrity of heart and uprightness, doing according to all that I have commanded you, and keeping my statutes and my ordinances, then I will establish your royal throne over Israel for ever, as I promised your father David, saying, “There shall not fail you a successor on the throne of Israel.”

‘If you turn aside from following me, you or your children, and do not keep my commandments and my statutes that I have set before you, but go and serve other gods and worship them, then I will cut Israel off from the land that I have given them; and the house that I have consecrated for my name I will cast out of my sight; and Israel will become a proverb and a taunt among all peoples. This house will become a heap of ruins; everyone passing by it will be astonished, and will hiss; and they will say, “Why has the Lord done such a thing to this land and to this house?” Then they will say, “Because they have forsaken the Lord their God, who brought their ancestors out of the land of Egypt, and embraced other gods, worshipping them and serving them; therefore the Lord has brought this disaster upon them.” ’

Acts 16.25-end
About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was an earthquake, so violent that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were unfastened. When the jailer woke up and saw the prison doors wide open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, since he supposed that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul shouted in a loud voice, ‘Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.’ The jailer called for lights, and rushing in, he fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them outside and said, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ They answered, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.’ They spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. At the same hour of the night he took them and washed their wounds; then he and his entire family were baptized without delay. He brought them up into the house and set food before them; and he and his entire household rejoiced that he had become a believer in God.

When morning came, the magistrates sent the police, saying, ‘Let those men go.’ And the jailer reported the message to Paul, saying, ‘The magistrates sent word to let you go; therefore come out now and go in peace.’ But Paul replied, ‘They have beaten us in public, uncondemned, men who are Roman citizens, and have thrown us into prison; and now are they going to discharge us in secret? Certainly not! Let them come and take us out themselves.’ The police reported these words to the magistrates, and they were afraid when they heard that they were Roman citizens; so they came and apologized to them. And they took them out and asked them to leave the city. After leaving the prison they went to Lydia’s home; and when they had seen and encouraged the brothers and sisters there, they departed.

The Collect
God, who in generous mercy sent the Holy Spirit upon your Church in the burning fire of your love: grant that your people may be fervent in the fellowship of the gospel that, always abiding in you, they may be found steadfast in faith and active in service;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Monday, 29 September 2014

Clergy - what should we pay for? [2]

Continuing with this thread there is a question that some have asked me as to whether we should be paying for them at all. This, and the discussion of stipends and common purse, need to be looked at and so we will do the 'should we be paying for clergy' question here and come back to the other issues later.

Where I am are various styles of 'unpaid' clergy - these are called Non Stipendiary Ministers (NSM) or Self Supporting Ministers (SSM), Ordained local Ministers and House for Duty* (HfD). Now the word 'unpaid' (not one I use) is rather frowned upon by many and yet still used by some. Self Supporting has given way to Non Stipendiary because (they tell me). "We don't like 'non' people!" Actually I think the distinction is moot and perhaps just a little pouty - but that's me, innit? If you are not in receipt of a stipend (yes, we will discuss stipends soon) then you are 'non-stipendiary'! How difficult is this (it's up there with the 'history' foolishness!).

Nomenclature issues aside - the reality is that many are looking to those who fit into this category of ministry where cost to the diocese is reduced to solve the cashflow problems that have come through a variety of reasons to haunt the CofE. In case you're wondering what they might be, three of the reasons I've been given thus far are:
1. Poor or imprudent financial management of the assets,
2. Diminishing per capita giving, and
3. Diminishing numbers of communicant or committed members.

One model, which many refer to as the 'Minster' model (but they are wrong), looks to a stipendiary minister in the central (AKA 'the big') church and 'assistant clergy (unpaid) in the other churches within the team. The problem is that we need to keep the lights on in churches and provide some form of leadership and because we demand an ordained leadership (all to do with epiclesis** and presbyteros*** - two important issues in my book - but that's for another day).

As someone who is a committed proponent of all-member ministry I am a firm supporter of releasing church members into leadership positions (lay and ordained) and think this should be the force behind our actions. Sadly though, even though many ask me what's my problem as the end result is the same, there are some who seek to find people to do the job as a means of saving cash rather than equipping, enabling and releasing them because it's what we (meaning me and others like me) are called to do! It has the feel of one of Dostoevsky's comedies.

The question though (at last) is should we be paying for our clergy? If we didn't pay them then we would have the issues of renumeration, housing, support services, clergy reviews and the like.

If we restricted payment to those who work in the revenue generating areas, this would this cut the expenditure - a view  held when I came to Lichfield diocese for there was a proposal at the Diocesan Synod to save money by cutting 'sector ministry' roles' These are the people who do non-parochial roles, working for the diocese, and so are a cost centre rather than a means of income. Regardless of how much they bring in, parochial clergy do bring something in from the members and so making sure we don't muzzle the ox that tread the grain we shoot those who don't! A very shortsighted view indeed.

Talking about the issue in 1943, the House of Bishops said of the stipend:

" Has been rightly regarded not as pay in the sense in which that word is understood in the world of industry today, not as reward for services rendered…

but rather as a maintenance allowance to enable the priest to live without undue financial worry, 

to do his work effectively in the sphere to which he is called and, if married, 

to maintain his wife and bring up his family in accordance with a standard which might be described as neither of poverty or riches…"

In 2001, the Clergy Stipends Review Group's report "generosity and sacrifice" (GS1408) gave us this:

"The stipend is part of the remuneration package which is paid for the exercise of office. It reflects the level of responsibility held. This package acknowledges the dual demands in Scripture of generosity and sacrifice on both those who receive the stipend and those who raise the necessary funds."

So another answer to the question, "What should we pay for?" brings forth the answer that it is there to provide clergy with the ability to give their whole time to the work of the Church without distraction from other secular employment.

Having had the discussion many years back where those who were stipendiary were accused by an NSM of, "Taking money from the Church whist they (being NSM) gave to the Church for free out of their love for it!" Now this was an invitation to a punch-up and as the discussion continued one of those present asked what time they gave to the Church, the response being some Sunday services (but not all or even every Sunday) and some time during the week. They gave 'what they wanted to give'! The shot that set fire to the world around us that day was, "Not only that but you expect me to work all day and then ask me to go to evening meetings too!" 

Goodness me, the number of clergy who pointed out that they were working all day and going to the same meetings as them - was not a nice experience. The bottom line is that some have secular jobs and give what they can when they can (Thank You) and some work and give what they choose to give (Thank You again) when they =choose to give it. Regardless of the realities, the situation is that people are bringing stuff in and doing stuff and for that we are truly grateful. The stipend removes the external daily toil from the workload and permits a focussed and consistent application of the dogcollar's time and energies and this brings a different, but equally valid, 'Thank You'.

So there is a justification for paying for ministers if it means that they are fully therefore committed to the work of the Church - but this needs to be done sensibly and sensitively for indeed it is not pay, but it needs to reflect the responsibility and workloads, pressures and challenges (mental, emotional, spiritual and fiscal) and deal with them in a mature fashion (anyone considered the secondary costs of living in some areas perhaps?).

More grist to the mill - more stuff to reflect upon and get us all thinking (looking forward to some intelligent dialogue from this and the other stuff that is to come).

Sorry is it meanders a little  - head full of cotton wool and lungs full of yeuk!)

Happy Monday

*HfD is just a little different as we will see later.
**epiclesis - invoking the Holy Spirit = blessing, consecrating and the like (see part 1)
***presbyteros = being a Priest is what we are and not what we do - it's about changes in being (ontology)

Morning Prayer - September 29

Michael and All Angels

Psalm 34
I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall ever be in my mouth. My soul shall glory in the Lord; let the humble hear and be glad. O magnify the Lord with me; let us exalt his name together.

I sought the Lord and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Look upon him and be radiant and your faces shall not be ashamed. This poor soul cried, and the Lord heard me and saved me from all my troubles.

The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him and delivers them. O taste and see that the Lord is gracious; blessed is the one who trusts in him. Fear the Lord, all you his holy ones, for those who fear him lack nothing. Lions may lack and suffer hunger, but those who seek the Lord lack nothing that is good.

Come, my children, and listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord.Who is there who delights in life and longs for days to enjoy good things?
Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from lying words. Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.

The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous and his ears are open to their cry. The face of the Lord is against those who do evil, to root out the remembrance of them from the earth. The righteous cry and the Lord hears them and delivers them out of all their troubles.

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and will save those who are crushed in spirit. Many are the troubles of the righteous; from them all will the Lord deliver them. He keeps all their bones, so that not one of them is broken. But evil shall slay the wicked and those who hate the righteous will be condemned. The Lord ransoms the life of his servants and will condemn none who seek refuge in him.

Psalm 150
O praise God in his holiness; praise him in the firmament of his power.
Praise him for his mighty acts; praise him according to his excellent greatness.
Praise him with the blast of the trumpet; praise him upon the harp and lyre.
Praise him with timbrel and dances; praise him upon the strings and pipe.
Praise him with ringing cymbals; praise him upon the clashing cymbals.
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.

Daniel 12.1-4
‘At that time Michael, the great prince, the protector of your people, shall arise. There shall be a time of anguish, such as has never occurred since nations first came into existence. But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone who is found written in the book. Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever. But you, Daniel, keep the words secret and the book sealed until the time of the end. Many shall be running back and forth, and evil shall increase.’

Acts 12.1-11
About that time King Herod laid violent hands upon some who belonged to the church. He had James, the brother of John, killed with the sword. After he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. (This was during the festival of Unleavened Bread.) When he had seized him, he put him in prison and handed him over to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending to bring him out to the people after the Passover. While Peter was kept in prison, the church prayed fervently to God for him.

The very night before Herod was going to bring him out, Peter, bound with two chains, was sleeping between two soldiers, while guards in front of the door were keeping watch over the prison. Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He tapped Peter on the side and woke him, saying, ‘Get up quickly.’ And the chains fell off his wrists. The angel said to him, ‘Fasten your belt and put on your sandals.’ He did so. Then he said to him, ‘Wrap your cloak around you and follow me.’ Peter went out and followed him; he did not realize that what was happening with the angel’s help was real; he thought he was seeing a vision. After they had passed the first and the second guard, they came before the iron gate leading into the city. It opened for them of its own accord, and they went outside and walked along a lane, when suddenly the angel left him. Then Peter came to himself and said, ‘Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hands of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.

The Collect
Everlasting God,
you have ordained and constituted the ministries of angels and mortals in a wonderful order:
grant that as your holy angels always serve you in heaven,
so, at your command, they may help and defend us on earth;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen..

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Can't make it to Church? September 28

This week's readings give us an interesting bag of things to look at and consider.

The Exodus story is interesting and I have always thought that the image of journeying away from the wilderness of Sin was surely what we should all be doing, but of course Sin is a place rather than a state of mind - isn't it? So here we are with the Israelites who are on their way from captivity and walking towards God's promised land. They are tired and fed up because they journey has been long (and will be even longer still) and yet in the chapter before they've received food from heaven (Manna) and having food they are now complaining that they are thirsty. God responds by providing water and the name of the place at Horeb where it appeared is the response that every leader has asked at some time during a journey (new building, new project, service and the like):

‘Is the Lord among us or not?’

Our Psalms sings of this and all the mercies God showed the Israelites - grumpy bunch of wotsits :-)

The Philippians passage provides us with some great food for thought because is asks another question:

Are you happy because you are Christ's  - comforted by His love and one with the Holy Spirit?

Because if you are then love each other, encourage those around you and seek to bless them! Do the stuff you do to be part of the family rather than to stand in the limelight and get praise. Be like Jesus who although being God put that aside and emptied Himself of it all to became a servant to all (not just the powerful - but everyone).  The emphasis on 'emptied' is important because it's what we call kenosis - and this small word speaks pages about Jesus and His ministry because it talks of Jesus as a man who had revelations, insights and struggles in the way that we do. Many assume that Jesus knew everything and was just God playing at man but the act of kenosis is akin to someone with six numbers in the lottery putting it in the bin - He really was man and so the, "Well He was God wasn't He?" comments fall to the ground because although He was (and is) he was truly man and so His obedience and ministry is in so very many ways the same as that which is open to every one of us.

The Gospel reading leads us into something that is a most useful technique when being challenged, the art of responding to a question with a question. Here the issue is that of authority - an issue that crops up weekly in some churches as the leaders ask Jesus who gave Him permission to do stuff. So Jesus asks them first to give Him a datum (a line to work from) so He can understand their thinking, and this is about John the Baptist and his baptism. They are stymied because the answer will with either damn them before the crowd or show them to be disobedient to God.  Point made Jesus talks of two sons. The first says he will do stuff, but doesn't, whilst the other says he won't do stuff and at the eleventh hour relents and does. So here's our third question:

"Which son are you?"

So, three questions for us and these relate to our corporate (Church) life and our personal too. It is easy to feel God is with us when things are going right but when the going gets tough and the parish share is building up and the members are growing down or the health or job prospects or wealth are tested and the car has broken down - then that question, ‘Is the Lord among us or not?’, becomes a very real and most challenging one.

Add to this the fact that it's easy for us to be happy Christians when we have few needs but the question that needs to be answered is simple:  "Are you happy because you are Christ's  - comforted by His love and one with the Holy Spirit?" This is a tough one because, following on from the first question it causes us to examine whether relationship with God is the source of our happiness or not - and sometimes the answer (if we are honest) is perhaps not what we'd claim.

The final shot is obviously the most challenging for many because many I meet talk a game that says "I'm willing to do the stuff," and yet the reality is that they don't do it! Is this you? Do you say you'll be at a service and then fail to appear (always, of course, with the good reason!) or make positive noises about church things but are never there to be counted when the work is being done? This question: "Which son are you?" is perhaps the most telling and the hardest to own up to. Letting our 'yes be yes' and our 'no be no' is a key element.

So let's pray (the Collect): 

Lord God, defend your Church from all false teaching and give to your people knowledge of your truth, that we may enjoy eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Father God - help us to be honest in all our thoughts, words and deeds,
To recognise that you are indeed with us
and to live in the joy that that reality brings.
We pray that your hand will be seen in the lives of all people
And pray for those who bear your name across the world.
Be with us today, make your presence known, and your love apparent,
help us in our unbelief and fill us with your Spirit. Amen.

Exodus 17.1-7
From the wilderness of Sin the whole congregation of the Israelites journeyed by stages, as the Lord commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. The people quarrelled with Moses, and said, ‘Give us water to drink.’ Moses said to them, ‘Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the Lord?’ But the people thirsted there for water; and the people complained against Moses and said, ‘Why did you bring us out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst?’ So Moses cried out to the Lord, ‘What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.’ The Lord said to Moses, ‘Go on ahead of the people, and take some of the elders of Israel with you; take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. I will be standing there in front of you on the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it, so that the people may drink.’ Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel. He called the place Massah and Meribah, because the Israelites quarrelled and tested the Lord, saying, ‘Is the Lord among us or not?’

Psalm 78.1-4,12-16
Hear my teaching, O my people; incline your ears to the words of my mouth.
I will open my mouth in a parable; I will pour forth mysteries from of old, Such as we have heard and known, which our forebears have told us. We will not hide from their children, but will recount to generations to come, the praises of the Lord and his power and the wonderful works he has done. For he did marvellous things in the sight of their forebears, in the land of Egypt, in the field of Zoan. He divided the sea and let them pass through; he made the waters stand still in a heap. He led them with a cloud by day and all the night through with a blaze of fire. He split the hard rocks in the wilderness and gave them drink as from the great deep. He brought streams out of the rock and made water gush out like rivers.

Philippians 2.1-13
If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness.

And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death - even death on a cross. Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Matthew 21.23-32
When he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him as he was teaching, and said, ‘By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?’ Jesus said to them, ‘I will also ask you one question; if you tell me the answer, then I will also tell you by what authority I do these things. Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin?’ And they argued with one another, ‘If we say, “From heaven”, he will say to us, “Why then did you not believe him?” But if we say, “Of human origin”, we are afraid of the crowd; for all regard John as a prophet.’ So they answered Jesus, ‘We do not know.’ And he said to them, ‘Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.

‘What do you think? A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, “Son, go and work in the vineyard today.” He answered, “I will not”; but later he changed his mind and went. The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, “I go, sir”; but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?’ They said, ‘The first.’ Jesus said to them, ‘Truly I tell you, the tax-collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax-collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him.

Post Communion Prayer
Keep, O Lord, your Church, with your perpetual mercy;
and, because without you our human frailty cannot but fall,
keep us ever by your help from all things hurtful,
and lead us to all things profitable to our salvation;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

My apologies for the absence of this post over the past two weeks - caused by absence and illness - (ab)normal service is now resumed :-)

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Clergy - What should we pay for? [1]

The answer to the above questions, in my book,  is 'Absolutely Everything!'

Recent conversations with friends, colleagues, clergy and the bloke who stopped me and asked how long we got before the Bishop 'moved us' have all included (with varying degrees of knowledge)  the issue of the clergy vacancy. The expectations cover all stages from totally unrealistic through to, "Yeah, in your dreams," and yet some of the most unrealistic were from within the church and from those who should perhaps know better!

Some job descriptions stop just a tad short of including sending the poor cleric up the chimney and yet others, looking like a doable role, stun the poor soul reading the advert into something approaching catatonia when they see the dreaded 0.5. Just in case you think the 0.5 post is there for short clerics, let me explain:

There have been some interesting trends and some constructive thinking over the past few years. One involved asking clergy whether they'd be happy to note down the time that school work took and that which related to church schools was work and all other was effectively our hobby (I kid you not). This was repeated over a number of areas (church club = work, veteran's club = hobby and so on) and the end result was that a good idea of what should be paid for by the church and what was merely 'our personal interest' could be separated. When I was asked what I thought the Church should be paying for, the response was simple = everything!

The reasoning for my response comes from the fact that there are some who appear to be looking to reduce the role of minister to something that resembles the sessional youth worker! Where we have a service that demands the presence of a priest, which usually means that an epiclesis* is involved, we budget for one and in so doing restrict our priestly requirement to Communion, marriage and (for some places) Baptism**! So we pay for the presence of priest on Sunday and then, realising, we need one for the Wednesday midweek communion service and subsequent home communions to those who otherwise couldn't make it add another day to the pile.  This done, we add to the mix another day to enable hospital visits and other 'Vicar' type stuff (Vestry hour, meeting Wardens, parishioners and the like) and bingo, that's the 0.5 post put to bed.

I have been involved in some amazing conversations about paying our way where the mantra 'can't pay, can't have' has been paraded before an assembled clergy whose expressions said it all:

 And so, with that, I'll leave you to have a reflect on this first shot. A shot that builds nicely upon the question of giving to God that for which we have not paid and asks where is our treasure? For that is surely the key to much of this issue.

Happy Saturday :-)

* epiclesis - an invocation or calling down upon or blessing involving the Holy Spirit. This is the bit where we bless people at the end or consecrate the bread and wine or bless the rings or the couple or the water in which (or which will be poured over to enable) the rite of baptism.

** when I was ordained, baptism was not allowed until I'd been priested and so this was a 'priest's job' - that said I have found many handing this over to deacons and I've heard of some who have allowed their Lay Minister's to do the service too (which is still, as I understand it, wrong).