[Not the best] From the vicarage July 2010
I am now 16 months into my first incumbency and all the weaknesses I know I have are being exposed as we go along. As a church, we are having to work out how to overcome my lack of chronological thinking (I don’t think diary) and my struggles with paperwork, otherwise chaos will reign through disorganisation. At the same time I know am exercising the gifts I have under God for the work of the gospel. I’m beginning to find a rhythm and my own style in preaching God’s word week in week out. We’ve formulated a church vision statement, have set up structures to spread the work of looking after the buildings, grounds and finances and we are beginning to put a game plan together for reaching people in the parish (watch this space).
Colin Lucock and I attended a meeting at the end of June which introduced us both to the Church of England’s new employment legislation for clergy. What was very clear from the meeting is just how the role of the clergy has changed. In the recent past, it was expected that the vicar would lead and preach on Sundays, take weddings, funerals and baptisms and visit the sick. The new expectation, in our post-Christian or non-Christian country, is for the clergy to function as a leader of a missional community. The role of the vicar is now focused on enabling people to come to living faith in the real Lord Jesus Christ and then for everyone to use the gifts God has given to serve Christ and one another. This involves visionary and prophetic leadership, the ability to enable collaboration, including worship, pastoral care, mission and outreach. I am to ensure the structures of the church government enable the buildings and grounds are well maintained and that the money God supplies through the generosity of his people is used wisely in accordance with gospel priorities.
As well as all this, the clergy are expected to maintain a balanced spiritual life including theological training (that is why I blog – transforminggrace.wordpress.com) and practical or working knowledge of church life and culture. The right balance of time for God, time for self, time for family and time for church must be found and maintained.
These new expectations might place a great burden on the clergy. Three things keep me from sinking under the pressure. First, God is all powerful, all loving and sovereign over everything. Jesus said that he will build his church. We are in the mess we are today as a national church only because Jesus has chosen to discipline, prune and reduce his church so that she might return to her real Saviour in love and to stop worshiping a fake Jesus who is made in our own imagination (Rev 2). Second, God expects me to be faithful to his word and to use the gifts he as given me for his glory. As long as I am faithful, God expects no more. Third, Holy Trinity is a body with many, many gifts which can be exercised together for God’s glory. So as we are united by the love of Christ in his death for our sins and in the purpose of making him known, then the Holy Spirit will move us all to put our gifts to use together.
I want to encourage you to be open to discerning the gifts of the Spirit which you have and then to exercise those gifts in church life. Step up to the mark [if you are not already doing so] and put your hand to the pump. As we work together, God will be gloried and West Bromwich will be transformed one life at a time.