Bishop Rubin writes in the Diocesan Izindaba (No. 24) about the Chrism Eucharist:
On Thursday (7th June), the deacons, priests and bishops of the diocese gather together in our cathedral to renew their ordination vows during a service called the Chrism Eucharist. It is called that (Chrism, a Greek word meaning anointing) because at this service the oil that is used to anoint the sick and the oil that is used to anoint (Chrism) the confirmation candidates, are blessed by the bishops. The service also provides the bishop with an opportunity to thank the clergy in general for their dedicated ministry, to recognise those who have served as deacons and priests for every five years of their ordination with certificates, to welcome new clergy, and to bid farewell to those who will be retiring or already have retired since the last Chrism Eucharist. Lunch is served after the service. It is a special and deeply moving service, and I am truly sorry to be missing it. I am on long leave. By the way, if you are not familiar with this liturgy, you can read the words in An Anglican Prayer Book, page 177.
Judging by the scores of books that are being written for and on the ordained (deacons and priests), it is evident that the nature of our calling and ministry are evolving. It is not what they used to be! I have more than 20 titles that are trying to address the changes in my study. Here are a few: Vocations and their Formations Today; Diversity of Vocations; This is our Calling; Simple Priesthood; Parish Priests for the Sake of the Kingdom; Renewing Faith in Ordained Ministry –New Hope for Tired Clergy; Callings; Collared or Called – an alternate approach to vocation. One of these books has the catching Chapter entitled “Called or Culled”!
Of course, the nature of our calling and ministry is changing because both the church and the society we seek to serve are going through a time of tremendous change and transition. However, we cannot, in fact we dare not, turn our backs on these changes. We must rather face them, analyse them wrestle with them, enter into conversation with them, interrogate them, but at the same time allowing the Holy Spirit to lead us to make the necessary changes, changes that may disturb and disrupt our present understanding and practice of ministry. After all “the Spirit blows wherever the Spirit wills”.
That said, there are a few fundamentals about a priest’s calling and ministry that should be non-negotiable. They are based on the underlying fact that what we do is not a career but a calling (vocation). My Collins dictionary defines “calling” as “a strong inner urge to follow an occupation”. Christians, of course, understand this inner urge to be the voice of God.
What are some of these “non-negotiables”? Well, they are set out in the ordination service and include:
- to be faithful and diligent in prayer, including the saying of Morning & Evening Prayer.
- to believe the holy Scriptures as uniquely revealing the word of God and to read and study them.
- to minister (preach and teach) the word of God and God’s sacraments.
- to help God’s people to discover and use to God’s glory the gifts and ministries he gives us.
- to pastor God’s people – to care for them.
- to promote unity, peace and love.
- to fashion our own lives and that of our house-holds according to the way of Christ.
- to strive for balance in our lives: God, Church, family, self.
- to be holy.
“Calling” requires dedication and sacrifice, going the extra mile – words that we tend to shy away from and concepts that we think are outdated. But are they outdated? St. Paul reminds us to “Present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God.” Whereas ‘career’, is not so much about service and giving, but more perhaps about clock-watching, getting a salary, allowances and holidays etc.
I wish to end with these words from the Ordination Service, which the bishop says just before the moment of ordination:
Come then in his strength to this ministry with joy and courage, with dedication and perseverance, determined to give yourselves wholly to this one thing, and may the Lord who has given you the will to do these things give you the grace and strength to perform them. Amen