‘The Laity’ by Fredrica Harris Thompsett

Chapter in Stephen Sykes & John Booty, The Study of Anglicanism (SPCK/Fortress Press; London, 1988, pp 245-260)

I’ve begun thinking about ‘vocations’ and discovering this great Anglican emphasis on ‘the vocation of the laity’ which is really just jargon for ‘being Jesus’ hands and feet in the world’.  What’s great however, is the reminder that, unless a Christian is ‘called’, equipped, well suited and set apart for ‘ministry’ in the church, the focus for everyday Christian endeavour is NOT in the church but in the ‘world’. Why do we insist on tying up our church’s time and energy with running ‘church’ programs?  It stifles Christian witness and work for justice and love of neighbour and also contributes to the dualist exaggeration of ‘us and them’.

“In theology reminiscent of William Temple, Simone Weil wrote that ‘the pursuit of truth must never be separated from the love of persons’.  An ethical, everyday Christian spirituality that might carry us into the future would do well to pay attention to traditional Anglican perspectives on laity.  Thus, for example, the theology of humanity would be socially grounded, enlivened with the incarnational legacy of responsible belonging to God; worship and prayer would be accessible to all regardless of education or social location; educational resources would be expansive, shaped by listening to those with whom we learn; and a spirited ecumenically-minded Church in mission would be willing to explore unknown areas with persons of divine perspectives, faiths, and nationalities.  Through participation in such a Church, Anglican laity would continue to find extraordinary significance in the ordinary and know that truth reveals itself in patterns of human events, in collective testimonies old and new.” p258

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