The Parish Pooh-Bar – Part 2

So you do read my letters!   I’m glad that last month’s has become a talking point, although as I anticipated-there has been some misunderstanding.  I’ll reaffirm and expand one or two points 

I think it was obvious that I was not talking about the amount of work I do. To me the Ministry is literally a full-time calling. The fact that some clergy are joining a Trade Union seem to degrade the ministry to my mind. It is no 9 to 5 job.

No.   I was talking about what I am doing and what I should be doing.  More about that in a moment.

This month I want to broaden my comments because we have an excellent and very hard working band, of leaders and helpers in this parish.  Many of them couldn’t take on any additional work.  But what I said about myself I say about them.  Are they all doing the tasks for which they are called and, gifted, by God? In  some  cases I think not but I  don’t feel  it  is their  fault.   For example, I see leaders with an obvious ministry to people, who are bogged dowm with administration.

On the other hand some leaders have not been given the opportunity and encouragement to develop their real gifts and ministries.  Because of “clericalism” (the attitude that the clergy should be the Parish Pooh-Bah) lay leaders have sometimes been treated as second class citizens.   For example, the old tradition still lives on. Some people don’t feel visited unless the clergyman calls. Lay visitors don’t qualify and perhaps the Curate doesn’t either!     In most cases this is quite wrong and must change. As the national Evangelical Anglican Congress recommended I’d like to see us drop the terms “clergy” and “laity”.

Incidentally, this is why I’ve written about all this in the magazine rather than just talking to the PCC.

What I’m saying will affect you and I want you to understand it.   We need to free some of our leaders for their God-given ministries probably to do more important jobs.   To do this we must discover and use the gifts of those who are not so involved in the church’s work.   I can envisage a time when we have “lay” leaders in charge of important areas of the church’s ministry and life.  This might include one in charge of all our Evangelism, one over all our Pastoral Visiting, one over Parish Education etc.   Traditionally the clergyman has been in charge of all these areas but he has neither the time nor the gifts to do this well.

Let me finally outline what I see as my immediate aims. I think it is summed up by saying I want to have more time for people.  And I see this in three areas.   First, more time for the most important Person, i.e. the Lord – more time for Bible Study and Prayer.   Second, more time for the leaders and workers in the Church.   This involves teaching, training, encourag­ement etc.   Third, more time for other people,   especially those in need spiritually,   emotionally or physically.   I am painfully aware of the shortcomings here i.e. in pastoral visiting.  We are working on this at present and will tell you more later.

So continue to think and pray about all this.   Pray for guidance for me and other leaders.   Pray about your part in it. You have a gift, and even if you’re housebound or elder­ly you could have that  vital gift  – a ministry of prayer.

Yours sincerely, 

Tony Higton.

© Tony Higton: see conditions for reproduction