The June Pastoral Letter printed below was prepared and written by Fr. Martin the weekend before his sudden and untimely death on 22 May and, as usual, contains that blend of insight, instruction and pastoral care with which we were blessed each month. His characteristic sense of humour and fun is manifested in the accompanying cartoon of an ordinand’s progress to the priesthood and the four photographs from the ‘Tough Teddy Bear Tournament’ in which Fr. Martin had taken great delight and wished their publication in this issue of The Link. Fr. Martin was an inspiration to us all and he will be sorely missed in the Parishes of the Plurality.
The June Pastoral Letter from the Rectory
A NEW PRIEST
I have written before about ordination to the priesthood but it may, however, be helpful for us to remind ourselves of a little of what I have undoubtedly said in the past.
Fr. Mitch's ministry has, and the ministry of a deacon is, broadly one of assisting the Priest, you will have witnessed this at the Eucharist particularly where his role in worship is a symbol of his wider role as a deacon within the parish and life of the Church. From the day of his ordination as a priest in the Church of God, Fr. Mitch, along with all other priests will be able to preside over the celebration of five of the seven sacraments - the Eucharist, the heart of the Church’s life; Baptism; the sacrament of reconciliation (forgiveness); marriage and the sacrament of healing. (The Bishop alone confers the two remaining sacraments of Confirmation and Holy Orders.)
In addition to the Sacramental ministry of the Church, the priest buries the dead, preaches the word of God uncompromisingly, be it popular or unpopular; the priest teaches and instructs; they care for the sick, the dying, the bereaved and those in any kind of need, undertaking many other pastoral and administrative tasks. Under the Bishop, the chief pastor in the diocese, the priest is the pastor and leader of the church in the parish. If you want this in a ‘nut-shell’, the priest’s job is to bring God to humanity and humanity to God.
As I have said many times, the priest is not a solo-performer! While a priest has been called and set apart in a special way, many of the functions they are called to perform outside the sacramental ministry, are ministries the priest shares with the whole people of God, who with him, make up the royal priesthood of ALL THE BAPTISED.
Because we live in a very functional society the priest needs to remind themselves, that despite all their training, much of which is academic, the people of God don’t look for a learned leader or a good social worker, or someone who is a wizard at raising money or a super administrator. The priest is not a psychotherapist, and while it may be good to have a rapport with the young they are not called to be a muscular youth worker.
So what is the priest called primarily to do?
While a priest does many of the things I have listed and many others, a priest is actually called to BE HOLY, and to be an example and agent of holiness for all God’s people, loving them into the Kingdom.
We say to Fr. Mitch that we are grateful for your ministry among us a s a deacon, you have made a big contribution to the life of the churches in the plurality - and we assure you of our prayers as you now begin to grow into your ministerial priesthood, and we promise you our support and encouragement in your ministry as a priest in the years to come. We are privileged to share something of your joy and your great day.
I end on a practical note. I have always emphasised that a deacon is in the parish, partly to complete their training, and I have always stressed the need for encouragement from us all. After his ordination as priest, the demands of the post-ordination training are not quite so great, but the training continues for a further two years. When making demands on the curate it is, therefore essential to bear in mind that, even though Fr. Mitch is young and energetic, he is still completing his training and there are still certain restrictions on his ministry.
I know that many of you will be at his ordination at 7.30 p.m. on Tuesday 2nd June in Holy Cross. I hope that many of you will be able to come and support him when he presides at the Eucharist for the first time on the evening of Thursday 4th June at 7.30pm, again in Holy Cross. After this celebration there will be a presentation made to the new priest in the church hall with a glass of wine etc. and everyone is invited.
Your friend and Rector