Baptism and Ordination
It is a week day evening and the town hall of the remote Tasmanian coastal village of St Helens is full of people. There’s a wonderful spread of food and the hall is decked out with boats and nets, coal and miners’ helmets, local cheeses and bales of hay, symbols of the people’s everyday lives within the geographically large parish.
The occasion is the commissioning of the parish for enabler support ministry. This means that the people of the parish will become fully responsible for the life and mission of the church and no longer reliant on an ‘imported’ minister that they can no longer afford. Instead, they are supported by a non-resident enabler who visits regularly on a fortnightly basis to encourage, review and provide practical advice.
The service begins in a no nonsense way with the bishop walking in and greeting the congregation. The main focus is on the ministry of all the baptised and to help focus this, an enormous seashell font sits on a stand on the raised platform area. Early on in the service, water is poured into the font and the congregation is led through a liturgy for the renewal of baptismal vows.
A ministry team is commissioned by the bishop. It is given responsibility for the oversight of the parish together with the churchwardens and PCC.
And two people are ordained. They do not stand out in any special way. Their calling and task is to gather the community, preside at the eucharist, absolve and bless. Their ministry is complemented by several other people with gifts in pastoral care and preaching.
In a strange yet wonderful way this service signals a reversal of the prominence of ministries: baptism comes to the fore as primary and central to the life and mission of the church, ordination is put in its rightful place as a supportive servant leadership ministry and part of a partnership with others to ‘build the saints for the work of service’.
|© New Way of Being Church 2007|