How strange the turns that life brings us...
It seems like only a few days ago that I commenced life in parish ministry in Sydney's southern outskirts. Though painful at times, I would not have missed it for the world. I hope that, at the end, both myself and the congregations I was privileged to serve emerged stronger in faith in the Lord Jesus and more confident in our Resurrection Hope. Yet I remember in those opening weeks and months, despite a long and expensive theological education, I honestly felt that I had No Idea What I Was Doing. Sure, I could translate an ancient language or two and knock up a respectable sermon or Bible study. But these things were the Means not the Ends of ministry. What was I heading towards? What did I desire my congregations to be like? What would be the End that would glorify God?
I decided to turn to the wisdom of ages past and wrote a series of reflections on what I found in the works of those who went before. This was different to the readings I had done in College - then it was an academic exercise, now it was a lived reality. And I believe that I benefited greatly from the experience.
These days life is different. No longer in parish ministry but still serving God and wanting his name to be glorified among the nations. My work has taken me to Anglicare as part of their new Partnership Development team. Our aim, broadly, is to built partnerships between Anglicare services and Anglican parishes so that both might be more effective and grow their outreach. It's a work that I really believe in, even though at this early stage there are still so many unanswered questions about how these partnerships will operate in practice and how we will judge success/failure. Some days I again feel like I have No Idea What I Am Doing. So back to square one...
Again I am turning to the wisdom of the past (and present) so that I can better understand the practical application of Christian Care. If I'm going to be going out to sell a vision of partnership to Anglican churches (who have a recent of history of suspicion of partnership with "non-gospel ministry") I am going to have to have a range of theological and rhetorical tools. Much like my earlier reflections, I'm finding that it is one thing to have a academic knowledge of practical Christian ethics, but quite another to have that as your primary ministry focus.
So stay tuned as I dive into a new section of my theological library and begin a new journey. It may be that this is helpful only to me - some might not care very much, others might find my reflections pathetically simple. But you can only start where you start, and if this exercise helps me or anyone else in their Christian walk then that can only be a good thing.
Next time: beginning the journey with J. C. Ryle's "Practical Religion"