(Barton Books; Canberra, 2009)
This volume by members of the St Mark’s National Theological Centre community, was written to speak to a fairly widespread confusion about the roles and calls of ministry in today’s church. As such, it is a book I would be happy to give to intellectually oriented individuals if they were trying to discern their own ‘vocation’ – where they fitted in God’s economy and in the church. This is largely because the writers speak so confidently of the underlying objectives of ministry – to equip the saints for the the building up of the church – and the work of the whole church – to be Christ’s ambassadors in the world. Personally, I think it would be a fantastic outcome for the church if 9 out of 10 people who read this book were inspired to embrace non-ordained contexts in which to fulfill their commitment to Jesus, which is not out of the question given the inspiring chapters on the priesthood of all believers (by Heather Thompson) and the vocation of the laity (by Bruce Kaye). I would also happily make this book prescribed reading for all those involved in institutional settings of ordained vocational discernment and training – most particularly because of such an inspiring couple of chapters on distinctive diaconal ministry (by Peter Pocock and a personal reflection by Peter Rose) which we would do well to recover. Sadly lacking is an chapter on episcopal ministry.
Favourite quote? From Sarah Bachelard on ‘Spiritual Maturity and Ministerial Obligation’:
The robustness of our faith, however, does not primarily relate to the fervour of our conviction or the inflexibility of our orthodoxy. It is much more about the depth at which we inhabit the truths of the gospel, discovering how they transform our lives in concrete ways – how we relate to time and the material world, the freedom we have to befriend those who are unwanted and despised, the joy and the peace with which we are enabled to contemplate our death and the frustration of our ambition. The gospel is an invitation into a new way of living, a new way of experiencing the world and its limits.”