I fully recognise some people are finding today’s climate an unnerving one in which to navigate in ways faithful to Jesus. On top of that, to actually seek to work out what it means to be a ‘Minister of the Gospel’ can easily feel as a step too far. I hear people preaching about how we shouldn’t be seeking ‘relevance’ in today’s culture as an end in itself (to which I give an ‘amen’ because I think I know what they’re saying) – however, we do want to be relevant enough to be connected to the essence of what it means to be Church, don’t we? It provides little comfort to those not engaged with the issues, but what is now called ‘regional ministry’ is having to go through the same painful process of re-evaluation and examination – what’s the point? It seems, to me, a potentially huge mistake for us to assume what went under the name of ‘Superintendency’ and/or ‘Association Secretary’ is automatically translated into ‘regional ministry’, but that is so often the assumption.
What are we called to now? To even begin to find an answer I need to clarify my own primary calling – to follow Jesus. Only here can I begin to navigate by anything likely to provide any true sense of direction.
Thomas Merton, in ‘The Sign of Jonas’, writes:
“The perfection of the twelfth-century Cistercian architecture is not to be explained by saying that the Cistercians were looking for a new technique. I am not sure that they were looking for a new technique at all. They built good churches because they were looking for God. And they looking for God in a way that was pure and integral enough to make everything they did and everything they touched give glory to God.We cannot reproduce what they did because we approach the problem in a way that makes it impossible for us to find a solution. We ask ourselves a question that they never considered. How shall we build a beautiful monastery according to the style of some past age and according to the rules of a dead tradition? Thus we make the problem not only infinitely complicated but we make it, in fact, unsolvable. Because a dead style is a dead style. And the reason why it is dead is that the motives that once gave it life have ceased to exist.”