Monday, 3 November 2008

speaking about candidating at synod

Sorry about the absence recently. This isn't necessarily new stuff, but a reflection I shared at Synod on the weekend. 

At the annual Synod meeting, there is usually a celebration of ministry service, recognising those retiring from ministry, people finishing their period of discernment, and prayer for those preparing for candidating. They ask a person in or just finished their period of discernment to speak, and also a candidate. This year I was the candidate asked to share something of the experience of candidating so far. Here's what I said. 

The decision to candidate was something of a surprise for me, though it was less surprising for many close to me. It came after many years and attempts to discover a way I could live my life as a creative person in the light of the hope I find in God. As I undertook a period of discernment to listen to the Spirit, having exhausted all my own ideas, I gradually found myself identifying strongly with the role of ordained minister.

By the time I returned from the Biblical Storyteller’s gathering in 2006, I knew, in that indefinable Spirit inspired way, that I would apply to be a candidate for minister of the word. I did so and was accepted in October that year.

Being a storyteller is central to my understanding of myself in ministry. This is where my deep passion meets a deep hunger in the world, to use the idea of Jenny Tymms from Synod in 2005.

The Sacred Narrative contained in our scriptures is the foundational story for Christian community. I am passionate about helping people learn, engage with and find themselves and God in this story. I am excited by the possibilities for creatively encouraging people to tell their own stories of where they encounter God in their lives. It is in the telling and hearing of our stories that we find healing and wholeness, that we deepen our relationships with each other and with God, that we encourage one another and are encouraged, that we know who we are as individuals and as a community.

 

I am also committed to and excited by the unknown and unfolding shape of Christian community. Recently I had the opportunity to travel with a group to the UK to meet with some alternative church communities, and hear their stories. I have seen and heard the possibilities for connecting with people who do not find their way to church as it exists at the moment, building relationships in such a way that authentic Christian community is formed and people can gather in the name of Christ in ways that reflect with integrity their relationship with God.

There was a community of twelve, for whom all of life is intentionally worship, and who gather around a table from very different contexts and theological understandings, to build relationship, to encourage each other in their relationships with God, and the way they live out that relationship as witnesses to the presence of God in the world.

Another community create spaces of transformance art once a month in an inner city night club, and gather at other times for dinner and conversation, study and interaction with the wider community. This group is intentional about challenging their faith and the way they live it out.

In an art café in another city, a group of about 40 meet weekly; the space for the basement café was a gift of the local Methodist church, the initiative is a relationship between the Methodist and Anglican churches, the community was formed from the basis of relationship, strong relationship formed over two years, before the gathering of the community even began.

And finally, a group that has been creating monthly alternative worship spaces for many years, inviting any who wish to be involved in the creative process to meet in the pub across the road two weeks out, and in a welcoming and caring way, encouraging all to grow in confidence as they discover new ways to express their response to God in worship together.

I have been inspired by these stories. I listened with the ears of a candidate for ordained ministry, and am less certain about where ordained ministers might fit in these new forms of Christian community than when I left Australia.

However, I am looking forward to exploring new forms of Christian community here in my home town, inviting people to hear for the first time, or to hear again the story of God that offers hope, grace, life and love, and continuing to follow the Spirit singing the song that is God. 

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