The ordinations this weekend of Shirley Holder (to the priesthood) and David Bagnall (to the diaconate) are occasions of great rejoicing for all of us, and for Shirley and David it is both an exciting and daunting time.
Ordination is sometimes misunderstood. It can be seen to be some kind of passing-out parade, a graduation, an achievement of status or position. It is none of these things. Those who are ordained are not called to lives of bossing and busy-ness so that everyone else can relax. They are called to lead lives of prayer, study, worship and care, so that everyone else can be inspired, enabled and renewed, challenged to work out how they can be followers of Jesus in their own (often extremely busy and difficult) lives.
The late, great, Cardinal Basil Hume once wrote:
The gap between what is expected of me and what I know to be true of myself is very great.
The same is true for me, and for every Christian minister, and will be true for David and Shirley. Because – and you might possibly have spotted this – clergy are human beings. I am all too aware of my own vulnerability, and the better you know me, the more you’ll know it to be true. Our resources are limited – and the last few months have proved that in spades. It’s only when we recognize our limitations, and how great our need of God is, that we can be any use to Him at all.
The words minister and minus have the same Latin root: it is all about being small, about serving, about humility. But clergy are not called to be doormats! - rather they are called to be doorways, enabling people to cross the threshold from doubt to faith, from personal insecurities to the knowledge that they are loved and valued by God.
On the bell which calls the college to worship at Westcott House you will find inscribed (in Greek) ‘The One who calls is faithful’ (1 Thessalonians 5.24). We pray that God’s undoubted faithfulness will be real for David, and for Shirley. And real for us all - for in celebrating their new ministries, we have the opportunity to celebrate our own. For while some are called to ordination, all are called to serve: in witness, in worship, and in loving as He first loved us.