I can’t believe it has taken me this long time to send my ordination reflection and express my gratitude to all those like you who have been part of our ministry vocation journey.
As I told you in our last news, prior to my ordination, we have had tough moments of feelings loss and bereavement. Thank God for the 3-day silence retreat before the ordination which helped me to be ‘still’ in the presence of God. In this reflection, I won’t take you back to many years when I first heard God calling me in the ministry and all stages in the explorations so far but I would only take you back to the few weeks prior to my ordination.
During the leavers week at the college, I ensured that I looked at the vows that I would soon be taking. As an evangelical with a bit of catholic tendency I searched the scriptural references on these vows and imagined the beauty of the ceremony with its colours and smells. I was indeed reminded that humanly speaking, what God has called me into is both unknown and impossible. As a charismatic, I was seriously expecting something extra-ordinary to happen to me as soon Bishop laid hands on me and ordain me as deacon. Just like wedding, I thought about my life after ordination. Just about a week to the ordination, I felt totally not capable of ‘doing church ministry stuff’ on my own.
Thankfully, the Church of England ordinal explicitly states– “You cannot bear the weight of this calling in your own strength, but only by the grace and power of God. Pray therefore that your heart may daily be enlarged and your understanding of the scriptures enlightened. Pray earnestly for the gift of the Holy Spirit.” So I know that I was not sorted but through the help of the Lord who promised me His presence will continue to lead me to the next phrase of this unknown journey. So I really thank God for this assurance from Him who knows the journey.
The morning on the day of my ordination, I felt joyful like a kind of the time Foluso and I publicly declared our vocation of marriage nearly 10 years ago. I trusted God for a kind of Holy Spirit empowerment and filling and I knew my life will change. I had a good energy and felt rested well during the pre-ordination retreat. I attended the ordination of the priests in the morning and after lunch with other candidates and Bishop, we set up to get ready for this ‘expected hour’.
As we lined up to join the congregation, my children, wife, family and friends were already seated and gazing at me with winning smiles. This reminded me my vocation as a husband, father, son, brother, friend and a relative. I am eternally humbled and grateful that many people were able to come all the long way in the midst of their busyness of lives in June. The memories of the laughter, love and catching up will not leave me.
Waiting with an expectation
I lack words to express what actually happened to me on that day. As the Bishop laid hands on me I felt powerfully the presence of the Holy Spirit. In summary, I felt there was something of a spiritual, social and psychological blessing going on from the start and end of the service.
My curacy church welcomed me greatly and the Junior church did a lot of art work that touched my heart.
Since my ordination as a deacon, even though I have been a pastor for most of my working life, I have found my new role satisfying and in so many ways different. I have been part of people’s lives in various ways – in the time of joy such as christening and wedding and I have come alongside people in their time of sorrows and difficulties such as in the bereavements. In some weeks, I found myself switching from joyous occasions to sorrowful moments.
Thank you for praying for me
If would you like to know what ‘clergy dressing up ’ is doing to me, please watch the space
A year at St John’s College Nottingham has, overall, been a blessing, albeit, with a number of challenging moments.
We thank God for the space and time to study, reflect and submit oneself for formation. All the courses/modules that I have undertaken this year are connected with issues of discipleship and mission. The content was indeed relevant to my personal and spiritual formation. This year, I did the following modules in Theology for Mission and Ministry:
Mission of the Triune God
Fresh Expressions of Church
Gospel as a relevant resource for practical theology
The Holy Spirit and the Charismatic Life
Reading Ecclesiastes for Postmodern Mission
Advanced Pastoral and Mission Studies
Dissertation – Church’s Response to Cohabitation in Britain
My placement church is an answer to our prayers. It provides us not only with a place of learning but a Christian family. If you would like to read my report, please find it Chris’ Placement Report – AMPS- 2014-2015. It is a bit over 4,000 words and slightly academic in style but still readable – even though I do say so myself!
Studying 1 Corinthians cleared up a lot of my confusion about charismatic gifts and I found the works by Karl Barth and David Bosch particularly helpful.
I’m thankful to have this whole year of study at St John’s College, particularly with all its current restructuring. I feel I am beginning to understand how we discuss and disagree well within the breadth of the Church of England. After this whole year, I can still describe my core theological position as an evangelical charismatic, however, my catholic background is greatly appreciated and subconsciously influences my thought. St John’s has provided space this year to learn about the liberal tradition, which I appreciated.
I’m now gearing up to do a MA in Mission and Ministry this September.
We moved here to St Johns College Nottingham over a month ago for me to commence an ordination training with Church of England. I came here with a lot of questions and just two weeks into the training my questions are increasing.
This is not just about academic training which I think should/is enhancing my quality of mind but it also includes formation and spirituality.
What is Spirituality?
– It sounds like a risky business.
– Would that be like a kind of framework, set of values, symbols, doctrine that help one to cope?
– Someone that seems to me ‘unreligious’ recently told me how she set up a symbol to remind her to mediate. It really sound like a kind of spirituality. Everyone has a spirituality – christian or not, believer or not.
What about this good sounding word called FORMATION?
-To form into what?
– Would that have something to do with my relationship with God?
– Is it something to do with my self-awarness?
I remember two words that excited me when I was at Redcliffe College Gloucester years ago; ‘Being’ and ‘Doing’. Would formation deal with my ‘being’ or ‘doing’ or both. Perhaps my ‘being’ informs my ‘doing’
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2 NIV)
Would it be that formation will take care of ‘inner work’ in my life which then will manifest outwardly, to help me to be able to test and approve what is God’s will for me? Many questions than answers –
Is it just about me? African in me will shout loud and clear with a strong question ” What about ” I am because we are?”
What about your family formation? Community formation ? Church formation?
Yes, God is at work, should I do anything to ‘help’?, is it about partnership and collaborating with God. Do I need any intentional and unintentional commitments? More questions than answers….
Follow up from yesterday’s blog
Later on, after meeting Bishop Christopher Mayfield( representing Bishop of Worcester), my diocese was happy to sponsor me to attend a Bishops’ Advisory Panel (BAP) to see if the Church of England will recognise my call to ordained ministry.
Before then I have completed a detailed Registration form. This was the most in-depth form I have ever needed to complete in my life. As required,I wrote a reflection between 500 – 750 words about an aspect of Mission and Evangelism that is related to my experience and which I feel drawn as part of my calling. (Criterion H – which is one of the nine criterions we are all assessed with. For more details click here)
In preparation for BAP, I also prepared a presentation in which I spoke for five minutes on a topic chosen by me, which relates to an aspect of one of the criteria selection. I decided to do a presentation on diversity within the Church of England: how we can stand together and work together to enhance our Church mission and ministry to the nation, without compromising my own sense of identity. I became so passionate about this subject which changed me greatly in thinking of Christian unity(A reduced version of this presentation was printed in Christianity Magazine Aug 2014 page 7 and the full version can be seen elsewhere in my blog).
I needed also to think through how to facilitate a 13 – minute group discussion on the subject after my presentation.
Prayer and regular communion with God is paramount . My prayer life has changed greatly ever since I started this process even though this not to the point I would like it to be. I find it very comforting and encouraging to know that many people were/ are praying for me and the entire family.
During the BAP
My BAP took place from 16-18th June 2014 at Bishop Woodford House, Ely(http://www.bishopwoodfordhouse.com). I took the advice from many people not to drive, so I went by train. The conference is the culmination of the exploration period. I really enjoyed these three days of hard work of looking into my life, reflecting,talking and listening. Prayer and worship were central to the conference. Even though it was not compulsory to be part of most of the worship and prayer, I found it refreshing to spend time in the midst of these busy 3 days, to focus on our Father in heaven.
Monday the 16th June 2014
Since I know very well that I often find it very disorientating to end up rushing to get to a meeting on time; I decided to be there in a very good time. After I took some time to rest and pray; I went and joined the other 15 candidates for us to start to know ourselves; how far did you have travelled to come here was a common question. We are all men in this particular conference. The conference started with an introductory session where we tried to get to know each other. This is followed by a 40 -minute personal inventory. After the supper, we were briefed by the panel secretary and the pastoral exercise was given. The pastoral exercise was for me to respond to a complex pastoral issue in a form of a letter. I had the whole of Tuesday and Wednesday afternoon to write this exercise.
After night prayers at 9 PM, some of us candidates decided to go to the pub to have something to drink. I loved the fact that many of us have a great sense of humour. They can’t believe that I only drink soft drinks at the pub. I found it very relaxing. I went to bed around 11PM or so
Tuesday the 17th June 2014
I slept well and woke up early as usual to face the full day. It was excellent to start the day with Holy Communion at 7.30 AM. After breakfast, we divided into 2 groups for the presentation and discussions. The various presentations and discussions stimulated new ideas and help me to think deeply on the issues that came up. Most of the time, I even forgot that I was being assessed by the advisers. I contributed to the discussions as if it were a real situation and I had the sense that other candidates were doing the same (I don’t know for sure). As a group, we worked together as if we have had know each other for a very long; It seemed like a kind of business meeting (such as a PCC meeting or a working group for the various issues addressed).
After tea, at 4.15 pm I went for my first interview with the Vocational Advisor which addressed the three criteria: Vocation, Ministry within the Church of England and Spirituality. He drew upon my registration form, the personal inventory and my presentation. It did not feel like an interview to me but rather discussions as brothers in Christ, seeking together how our Church’s ministry and mission can be enhanced while our relationship with God flourishes.
After Evensong and supper, I went for another interview with the Pastoral Advisor which addressed the three criteria: Personality & Character, Relationship and Leadership & Collaboration. Like the the Vocational Adviser, he drew upon my registration form, personal inventory, but not much upon my presentation. He talked about my cross-cultural experience. Again, it was like a discussion rather than an interview. I came out from this interview feeling there must be something wrong. I decided to book to see the Advisor again the following day; when I met him I realised perhaps there was not need for this meeting after all. It was just that I was not used to such an interview.
After night prayers, we went to the pub again to chat. We shared our experiences with a great deal of respect to the process by not saying the exact questions we were asked. After I came back from the pub, I planned my pastoral exercise and then went to bed.
Wednesday 18th June 2014
I woke up this day with energy and a sense that people were praying for me. I got ready and went to Holy Communion morning service at 7.30 followed by breakfast at 8am . I wrote my pastoral exercise this morning as I only have one last interview at 12 PM before lunch. I felt that my letter reflected what I would say if faced with the same situation in real life.The last interview for me was with the Educational Advisor which addressed the three criteria: Faith, Mission & Evangelism and Quality of Mind. Just like Vocation and Pastoral Advisors, she engaged me in discussion.After this interview which was followed by lunch, I then went and rounded up my pastoral exercise; sent it via email for printing and then went to Ely Cathedral to relax ( If you are at BAP, you would not need to pay)
The conference started to draw to close from 3 pm ; we all handed in our pastoral exercise and we were encouraged to leave the outcome in the hand of God. I loved the closing worship and one of the hymns that I really appreciated was “Great is Thy faithfulness”.
The candidates departed before 4 pm and it happened that I was one of the few who left later as I had booked my return ticket for later in the evening. At this stage I felt very much at peace as I left. I did not feel any certainty about the outcome but I felt that the Advisors listened to me as a brother in Christ. It was great to come back home to meet my family.
Waiting for the outcome
We were told that the earliest we would get the report wasThursday 26th of June. I came back and wanted to continued normal with my mission work but found that I could not do that very well. I realised that I was too tired and could not effectively carry on with my usual activities. I was so surprised that the waiting was so difficult as I kept on remembering where I thought I had made mistakes. This waiting revealed to me surprisingly that I can have tendency to worry and waiting is not my strong point.
Late afternoon on Thursday 26th June, my Bishop- Bishop John Inge rang me and told me that the BAP has recommended me for training for ordination. Praise God!
What I could do the same or differently in such situation
Do the same or even more
Travel by train rather than driving
Ask many people to pray
Go on time and leave late to avoid any kind of rush
Socialise with others
Avoid going with a lot of books – no time to read or revise. It is not an examination
Try to plan a rest after the conference
Do the pastoral exercise on the second day to give time to proof-read
If possible, switch off mobile phone to avoid awkward calls or text messages
Plan for the waiting time to be less stressful – not sure how to do that
Some good blogs and online resources if you are preparing for BAP
The past 17 months have been a time for exploring and testing my call to ordained ministry within the Church of England through the diocese of Worcester as a sponsoring Diocese
There are a number of people from a wide range of backgrounds who have followed me closely in this journey of discernment through praying, active listening and offered advice.
My Vicar – Revd Simon Falshaw- who trusted me and allowed me into the Church ministry space to test my calling. He watched me work/ get involved in ministry and provided me with genuine feedback; both developmental and positive. Simon enabled me and others to engage in ministry while he provides oversight without interfering; this is one of things I have come to appreciate with his leadership style.
Diocesan Director of Ordinands ( DDO for short) – Rev’d Dr. Georgina Byrne – who listened to me with a great deal of patience and gave me clear direction and suggestions and provided me with necessary support. I always looked forward to our meetings.
My Director Director – Rev’d Chris Kent- Who committed throughout the discernment process to seeing me at least once a month to listen, advise and pray for my wife and I. He was not afraid to critique and provide me with both positive and developmental feedback. Chris focused more on my ‘being’ but at times could not help talking about my ‘doing’.
My OM Lifehope line-manager – Paul Wheatley and others in leadership team of Lifehope – who allowed me to explore and test my call and agreed for my major placement to be within the Church of England. What their encouragement to me demonstrated to me is: the kingdom of God mentality and that mission and ministry to our nation is not the prerogative of only a certain group.
An understanding and loving wife – Foluso Enwerem- who bore with me as I spent most of my time outside for mission, exploring and testing my call. What this meant in practice was me leaving her most of the time with our 3 little children without the car and yet still coming back very late and obliging her to read the thoughts that I had written down earlier on in the day…!
There are many others such as our supporters, friends and family who called, prayed, visited, gave financial help, expressed love in many other ways and those other Anglican churches that opened up their doors as I explored the diversity within the Church of England. Let me quickly say that my previous experiences and training all helped me in my reflections; for example, I now have space to put in practice all the training I had privilege to undertake when we were at European Christian Mission (ECM). It has indeed been a team effort with Jesus as the Captain as I have spent 1 year and 5 months exploring and testing my call within the Church of England.
The two National Vocation Conferences, one specifically for Ethic Minority Anglicans, were similar and both good. Each of them helped me in my exploration and discernment. The form for the next conference can be found here
Meeting the DDO
The first day that I met with my DDO, I thought it was going to be a kind of ‘job interview’, but I was pleasantly surprised to realise that this was not the case; but she would work with me to see whether my call within the Church of England is:
Obedient – responding to God’s calling rather than a plan of my own,
Realistic – considering other factors around my relationship, family, obligations and abilities and
Informed – whether I understand what ordained ministry in the Church of England means in practice.
Since I was very new as an Anglican, she sent me away with a clear suggestion to read a book ‘ what Anglicans believe’ by Samuel Wells and to get ready for a placement to experience different church traditions different church traditions.
I was not brought up in the Anglican tradition and I have come to Church of England only recently, however, I find in it both strong resonance with my Catholic background as well as an appreciation for scripture -led mission and ministry.
At my DDO’s request, I completed two modules at the Queen’s Foundation, Birmingham, where I had opportunity to engage on Anglicanism (and theology more generally). Indeed I have fallen in love with Church of England, for all its faults and oddities and I find spiritual nourishment within its variety and as a ‘fisherman’ find it a useful boat to fish from. I reflected on how God has been working in my life, from birth, by doing timeline. The timeline gave me a clear pattern of how God is ordering my life: without realising it myself, I have been on a trajectory towards ordained ministry within a Church a such as Church of England for a long time. I was guided to reflect on Eucharist. I also did an Academic work on Baptism and reflected on the work of a priest today.
I will soon be able to reflect on my experience and observations on the Bishops’ Advisory Panel ( BAP for short) I attended couple of weeks ago at Ely to see if the Church of England recognise my call to ordained ministry.
The outcome of the BAP is yes – recommended for training for ordination. As I am thinking of training, I reminded myself again what I am looking for in training is where I will be equipped to serve God better – rooted in my tradition, be generous not defensive in sharing my views and committed to church unity with respect for other views. After all I am an Anglican in the English context by “choice”.
Here is my presentation at BAP:Have you ever come across people in your local church who will tell you very clearly that they are Anglicans and others who will tell you just as clearly that they are not Anglicans ?. What this demonstrates, I think,is that as human beings, we like labels; we like to have some sense of identity and a way of distinguishing ourselves from others. But, at times, the unintended consequence of applying labels to others is our tendency to project a single, simplistic story onto groups of people whom we perceive to be different from ourselves.
As far as my own observations go, having journeyed along with many people from different Church traditions, I have come to realise just how unrealistic it can when I try to put people tightly in ‘boxes’ – creating a kind of stereotype. For example, two people could both call themselves Evangelical yet hold very different views on different issues.
Within the Church of England, we have different traditions. I ask myself how can I, as an Anglican in the English context, join others to continue to find creative ways to stand together and work together in order to enhance our Church’s mission and ministry to the nation – and how can I do so without compromising my own sense of identity? If I had to choose a label then I would say I am basically an evangelical with a charismatic influence; other traditions had shed light to my blind-spot.
I find it very comforting studying the history of Church of England – through various splendid and extraordinary research work by a number of people- to realise that at least from the 18th century onwards, the Church has been being enriched by the co-existence of the different traditions within it – the Evangelical, the Catholic and Liberal and it is worth noting that since 1960s, the influence of Charismatic Movement, has become increasingly important
An account in the scripture that resonates with me on this subject is the one found in Mark 9:
“Teacher,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us. “Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “For no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us”. (Mark 9:38- 40 NIV)
The opposite problem would be for me to pretend that none of these convictions matter at all and go to the opposite extreme of having no principles – and perhaps, even no root. It is important for me to be rooted in my tradition and be generous, not defensive, in sharing my views.
One of the things I have come to appreciate with Church of England is that sense of moderation – a holding together of different traditions and points of view often in tension yet with attentive listening to one another, with differences respected and honoured. This attitude, I think helps us in our relationship with others Anglicans Communion, with our Ecumenical partners, with those of other faith and none.
To summarised, our unity matters to God : Jesus prayed for our unity – “that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me”. (John 17:21 NIV).
Our unity in diversity will be a witness to the world and bring credibility to our mission and ministry.
These days a lot of things to think through, look around and look up to God for answer. Great need to stay silent and wait at times. I said in my last post that I am meeting with Bishop Christopher Mayfield last week. I meet him and he is happy with the decision for me to go ahead with the BAP in June. He encouraged me in my walk and work with God. He ask me what do you like in Church of England? So I would reflect on why Church of England ( Part 2) and ordination in this post: Why the Church of England?’ and ‘Why seek for ordination in the Church of England?’ are the two questions that I often ask myself – and that others ask me as well. I am not in any way trying to present Church of England or Anglicanism as the purest form of the Christian faith as at no stage in its history such claim has made. Why the Church of England Part2 ? Spiritual Nourishment: The doctrinal basis upon which the Church was founded is clearly scriptural. This is expressed in the Church’s attitude to the Holy Scripture as the most the important authority. The teaching of the Church teachers in the early centuries, which is consistent with the Bible, is taken seriously as well (ref to Canon Church law A5). Such teaching can be found in the 39 articles, Book of Common Prayer and the Ordinal (ordination service). Anglican Liturgy is wonderfully rich, comprehensive and this has enriched my personal and corporate prayer as it continues to ensure continuity of sound doctrine. Both in private and public worship, the call to confession and intercession, for example, are not omitted. The liturgy is biblically edifying and in public worship encourages congregational participation. The different traditions within the Church provide me with fresh insight and shed light upon my blind-spots; the Evangelical tradition reminds me of the importance of the scripture, the Catholic tradition of the nourishment in the Eucharist and devotion, and the Liberal of community engagement through social actions. Vitality & Mission of the Church of England: The maintained worship and pastoral presence of the Church to all in England, regardless of who you are, resonates with me. The Church is open and intended to be accessible to all. It is useful boat to fish from – it provides great potential and opportunity to reach many. We are indeed called to be fishers of men. As a missionary, (especially doing a ‘reversed’ mission to my adopted home), I feel strongly that I need to be part of what people are already aware of – tested and trusted for centuries. Church of England System of Governance: No body has too much power and the accountability structures, checks and balances reduce the chances of lording it over others. Why Ordination? Ordained ministry is at once a privileged, hard and demanding way of living which provides many opportunities for service and sacrifice – for example, the challenging of unjust policies and structures, which is often less obviously possible as a lay person or a ‘missionary’. I feel called to live in such a way. My passion for the Church place in the community, my love for more sacramental forms of worship and how the wider mission of the church has shaped and still shaping my thinking.
Would like to join us in prayers?
Give thanks to God that the Bishop of Worcester wishes to sponsor me to the Bishop Advisory Panel, 16 – 18th June 2014. Also for all positive experiences during the past 18 months that I have been exploring ministry with the Church of England. Please pray for the following: Great experience at the BAP (Bishop Advisory Panel), 16 – 18th June 2014. God to use the Advisory and myself as we discern His call upon me and my family in the future. Also pray for those providing references for me – that God will lead them as they agree to do such a key task. For God’s direction on the right college to attend for formation and training To be able to finish well with our current work with OM and Christ Church Lye Provision for us as a family
Five weeks ago, I received a letter from the The Church of England Ministry Division telling me that Bishop of Worcester wishes to sponsor me for a Bishop Advisory Panel on selection for training for ordained Ministry. Upon receiving the letter I felt both scary and exciting.
Nevertheless, I am seeing Bishop Christopher Mayfield this coming Saturday. He is the one to agreed or not that it is a good idea for me to go ahead with going to BAP on June 16th to June18th. Sorting out all paper work includes references, exploring the right college to go for formation if I am recommended, reading some recommended books and praying are all in progress.
I am very clear that God has his hand on the process and I make the prayer of St Augustine my prayer ” Lord, you have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you”. My heart cries to God to tell me what he want me to do. I might not see a distant future, yet I trust him as He knows and holds it.
Over these past 18 months of discernment my faith has deepened and my prayer life is more disciplined. My life with God is getting better and I am making more space to be with him more regularly even though I can not say I have nailed it but I am improving. Both Common prayer app and Bible YouVersion app have helped me in praying and studying God’s word. I am grateful to God for opportunity He has granted to me to continue to have a disciplined exploration of He might be asking me to do.
I need people who can join me in prayers as I seek what God want me to do with the life and family he has given to me. Do join me in prayers. If you would like me to send you more specific prayers, please do contact me.
I have spent several months thinking, praying and discerning what The Lord will want me to do in a long term by going through the discernment process with the Church of England. At this stage, I am filling in all the paper work and I hope, by God’s willing, my Diocese will in few months’ time, recommend me for the National selection conference called BAP. (BAP means Bishop Advisory Panel and this is final stage of selection process for applying to train for ordained ministry in the Church of England). If you would like to know more about it do click here
So far, it has been a challenging and inspiring time for me. I am still at the peace and convinced of my calling and the kind of journey God is taking me on. My faith has been deepened in this process. Having the opportunity to look at my life again and how God has been working in my life in the past from year 0 up to now has proved to me that there is a pattern in my life and God is the one ordering it – a great insight which humbles me and makes me to ask myself why do I worry at times. One thing that is so clear is that I have never been afraid to stand up for what I believe, even though it might not be popular. I appreciate ‘old-fashioned’ – if you like, traditional – ways of doing things, however, doing things differently and in new ways energises me.
My DDO (Diocesan Director of Ordinands) has been affirming and supportive. I never feel pressurised to mask myself. I am enjoying this process because it is not about jumping through hoops or ticking boxes, doing as one is expected just to get through. If that had been the case, someone like me would have been frustrated out as it would have been completely wrong for me. People generally know where they stand with me; wearing masks is not a sign of integrity and is not needed, especially in our walk with God. I do not want to go through this process hiding who I am. Apart from my DDO, my vicar and his Associate are helping me greatly in this journey. My vicar is mostly concerned with my ‘doing’ and has influenced me greatly in my study of the Bible, teaching and preaching, while the Associate is my(our) spiritual Director looking into how we are getting on spiritually and at times we get on to thinking and talking about theological matters. There are other vicars who are, in one way or another, helping me in this process by enabling me to visit them or the Church they are leading, and to learn from them or to borrow books from them. It just happens that I am friends with some vicars now. My leaders and other follow members of Operation Mobilisation Lifehope community have been wonderful as they pray and support me in this process. I am blessed with brothers and sisters encouraging me and my family in this journey of faith and obedience. Part of my growth in this process is coming through people giving me permission to enter their space or try things, let me make mistakes and their willingness to give me constructive criticism combined with a sense of affirmation which has built my sense of confidence.
Talking about who am I earlier on, it is clear to me that I am not someone to be put in a box or labelled. Perhaps the diversity in my background is what causes my ‘boxless or labeless’ self – or it could be that I increasingly see that it is unhelpful to just pigeon-hole people. For example, someone labelled ‘anglo-catholic’ can be faced with danger of others thinking of incense and saints in relation with the person without seeing them as a brother / sister in Christ whose desire is to be closer to Jesus. And a Nigeria Pastor can be put in a box of prosperity preacher, someone who want to ‘own’ his church with a expensive car or occasional a private jet or desire to do so, not a christian with a heart to follow Christ.’Evangelical’ in other can be seen as hands in the air, anti-women , anti -gay. I can refer to myself as an evangelical with a small ‘e’ – or to be specific, evangelical charismatic – during praise/ prayers, you can see my hands in the air, I am convinced through the Scriptures that women should be in ministry, even the ministry of the priesthood but I have a great respect for my many friends and leaders who are deeply committed theologically to a different view. I am not anti-gay in any way but my understanding of the Scriptures is sex is only rightly excercise and enjoyed within the context of marriage and marriage is union between man and woman. You can see why I am not a ‘label’ type. In the same way, even though I have been
involved in a pioneering work in the past, I feel I should not seek a ordained pioneering ministry route.
Breadth of the Church
Part of the discernment is about understanding the breadth of the Church of England. This is to understand the people with whom I will live and work together under the same banner – those with whom I will be ‘fishing’ from the same boat. The main thing is that we are all deeply loved by God and we all are responding to this love (I hope it is so). I really affirm and accept the diversity of the Church of England while at the same time I have the freedom, courage and passion to stick to my convictions. I would not like to sound arrogant here but in my experience there are few places that can allow you as a Christian to think for yourself and stick to your convictions even in secondary matters. It is possible to think that some of our counterparts’ practices are a bit odd or not something that we would choose to do, but we can affirm and respect them anyway. Now, I am not saying that this breadth and diversity is always easy to live out but I do believe there is a need to learn to have an understanding of why others choose to worship in the way that they do. While I attend an evangelical church and that is the kind of ministry I feel called in to, I also choose to go my local Parish church each week, which is very traditional; I really like the services there. Perhaps this reminds me of my childhood Catholic background… I don’t know, but I do appreciate the nourishment through the Eucharist, the space and the silence. I am not ‘just trying to keep my head down’ throughout the process and, God willing, neither will I do so during the training so that at the end of it all, I will not ‘suddenly’ discover that I don’t really like the Church of England.
Please join me in the prayer that God will keep my mind, and the minds of those involved in listening to what God might be telling me, in the knowledge of God, so that we all will be able to test and approve what is the will of God – His good, pleasing and perfect will.
A Summarised version on My Reflection on the Ministry of Priesthood
As a child who followed my father on Saturdays to Sabbath (an African Independent Church rooted in some Old Testament practises) and my mother on Sundays to the local Roman Catholic church, Priesthood seemed normal as someone that aid the worship of congregation and represent the Church/ Religious community to the wilder community. However, as a teenager, when I made a remarkable conscious decision to follow The Lord, later on joined other Christian tradition mostly independent evangelical and Pentecostal, my view on the priesthood ( merely the terminology ) then limited to a link to Aaron, Old Testament and that Believers are a ‘royal priesthood. This left me struggling with the thinking that the term ‘priest’ suggests ‘all Christians are equal but some are more equal than others’. I then thought that the ministry of Jesus Christ as a High Priest ( Heb. 4: 4, 14, 16) had replaced the ministry of priesthood and now grant all equal access to ‘God’s throne’ of grace. The term priesthood left a picture of ‘go- between’ us and God. The practice of confession in Catholic Church fitted so well in my mind on the picture ‘priesthood’ left me with.
As I relate meaningfully with Christians and Church leaders from other traditions I unconsciously left this thought to lain dormant and unarticulated, leaving it to be merely Church orders. I always believe that there are people called by God ( set- apart) to serve in a greater level through the Church and with authority from The Lord recognised by church. I also believe every truly baptised Christian have a call to serve The Lord and those ‘set apart’ have a duty to involve all ‘God’s people for work of service’.
II. Outcome of my reflection
As I observed closely the ministry of some Anglican Priests, read books and then re-examined some related scripture I began to see a slightly different picture. Staring from Old Testament, call to priesthood is a gift from God ( Numbers 18:7). Even in Old Testament priests were not merely only for sacrificing but to facilitate the worship of God’s people. They were not there to rob God’s people their right to speak to God independently nor to take their privileges as a ‘Kingdom of priest’ (cf Exodus 19:5).
In the New Testament, Jesus’ own sacrifice provided a once-for-all atonement. Through Jesus we may enter into God’s presence. Similar to ancient Israel, the calling of Christian believers to serve as priests was rejuvenated. Peter stated “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” (1 Peter 2:9, 10 NIV).
However, some are still ‘set apart’ for priestly ministry. Paul declared ” So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up” (Ephesians 4:11, 12 NIV). This idea of priest which are use for church leaders today are either ‘episkopos’ – Bishop or ‘Presbteros’ – Presbyter. The ministry of priesthood is a leadership calling. It is also about relationship and service. To me, it is high calling ( 1 Tim 3:1), a character calling ( 1 Tim 3: 2-7), a family calling ( 1 Tim 3:2,4) and a community calling ( 1 Tim 3: 7).
We are co-created in relationship with others. When a relationship changes, so does the person. There are ‘set apart’ elements in the characterisation of priesthood. If the road to becoming a priest deepens a person’s relationship with God and simultaneously loosens his bonds with other people then the parson will end up with a different ontological status from the ‘laity’. This is what I need to explore much further perhaps during training as I am not comfortable with such a view. (My observation on a few priests today: They are men and women devoted their lives with authority from The Lord/ Church to lead people in worship, teach/ preach, relate with wilder community doing certain community work and engage with practical up taking of church building etc. He/she met with God in prayers and people. The people they meet frequently are not only church members. They engage with both old and young. Therefore I could not observed such different ‘ontological status’ from the laity)
Meanwhile, I believe that the authority is real and tremendous. I believe there is ‘set apart’ in the sense of receiving authority and strength from Holy Spirit to do the work as no one can do such great work in his/her strength. ( cf “Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through prophecy when the body of elders laid their hands on you.” 1 Timothy 4:14 and “Calling the Twelve to him, he began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over impure spirits “- Mark 6:7 NIV)