I've come to believe that, when writing or planning it is often necessary to clear the detritus that floats on the surface in order to reach the more valuable nuggets that lie underneath. I'm hoping that that was what was playing out this week in a Ministries Council Consultation planning for a Decade for Ministry, an initiative being undertaken to encourage vocations and re-imagine ministry for the future. None of the "starters for ten" showed any imagination or any indication of a willingness to take risks in order to resource the church to serve neighbourhoods and to build new ecclesial communities for the future. Paradoxically, a session that talked of "The Threshold of Death" and other such grave like symbolism was the most animated and life giving as we considered the trajectory of change.
Another aspect that was sadly lacking - and has been for some time, was consideration of how to build up, equip and support ministers who are currently engaged in serving the church, some of whom, contrary to assumed national intelligence, serve healthy, growing communities, effective in their neighbourhoods and some of whom serve in less encouraging ministries that nonetheless require faithfulness and perseverance. Of course it is important to look to and try to re-imagine the future but that does not have to be at the expense of nurturing those whose calling is to serve what may well become "the remnant" in an age of exile and change.
An element that tends to be overlooked and underestimated is the ministry of encouragement. Such a ministry is entirely possible and, I would contend, necessary, even as we grapple with new horizons.
So, having spent 24 hours putting to rest the unimaginative, uninspired, lifeless suggestions currently in play, can we now get down to the business of harnessing the unpredictable, life giving Spirit of God, following her lead as she nudges and cajoles and maybe even shoves us onto unfamiliar dirt tracks, all the while weaving her restless energy, encouragement and healing balm to the blisters and weariness encountered on the journey? And, in that Spirit of discernment, can we catch too,the excitement and privilege it is to be at such a liminal point on the journey of faith and in the Decade for ministry. Liminal places are creative places.
Already, I believe, the disappointment of the last 24 hours, is a potentially fruitful place from which to continue the journey with renewed purpose and increasing awareness of the presence of the God of death and resurrection who calls us today to step out in faith and in service to a land we have not seen but for which we hope and pray.