On September 20, 1989 a great crowd of people gathered in Halifax at All Saints Cathedral to witness the ordination of five people as deacons in the Church. I was one of those ordained that evening, eager to serve God, by serving the world and the Church.
I was wonderfully unaware of the pain and suffering I would witness, of the grief and of the helplessness I would too often feel. The price of ministry, as it is with true love, is the pain of separation. Thankfully, the joy I found in the Church far surpasses the pain. I could not imagine trading-in the pain if it meant never knowing the joy. Ministry has been (and continues to be) a gift I can never fully repay. I am thankful for the trust the Church has placed in me for a quarter century.
The Church has changed in these years and I think for the better (for the most part). We are a more inclusive and diverse community, and we worship joyfully. However, the thing that troubles me is the changed vision that has developed around ordained ministry (bishops, priests and deacons). We, and by “we” I mean all of us, lay and ordained, have forgotten the model of servant ministry clearly preferred by Jesus. In Matthew’s Gospel (20: 26) Jesus says, “but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant…” Of course, it is not just for ordained people to serve. The clergy’s role is to serve the Church in its mission to serve to the world.
The Gospel we proclaim, that we try and live by, is a Gospel that calls us to serve one another and the world. The future of the Church, and our mission, is wonderfully alive at St. Paul’s because there is an awareness here that we exist, not just for ourselves, but for God and God’s love of the whole world. Look at John’s Gospel (3:16, 17), “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son…”