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Stewards Of The Mysteries Of God – ed. Eric James

April 28, 2015

Eric JamesThis is a collection of essays which was originally written for a diocesan conference and which reflects upon the role of the minister in contemporary society and has a strongly work-based, ‘secular’ thrust. Eric James starts with the, now conventional but often unheeded assumption that the role of the clergy is to enable the laity to be stewards of the mysteries of God within the environment in which they move. Like the ‘sheep’ in Matthew’s parable, many ministers will wonder WHEN it was that they ministered to the Lord in the hungry of their day and part of priesthood is an affirmation of what is going on within the secular structure: of the day, though a questioning, slightly distant stance will be maintained by the ordained person who works within secular employment. The great challenge for the church lies in the area of non-stipendiary ministry; Newbiggin is quoted as saying that the survival of the full-time clergyperson is a hang over from the days of Constantine.

A good essay by Richard Harries grapples with the problem of unbelief. He argues, to start with, that modern man is not really atheistic, he prays in a tight situation and thinks in terms of somebody out there who runs the world, but he is very angry with that somebody when he thinks of the poverty and suffering that is the lot of the majority of the world’s population, Theodicy is more necessary than ever, particularly for the minister who spends most of his time in the secular world, away from the church structures and from the people who inhabit the mental framework of Christian belief and thought.

Andrew Henderson is an NSM social worker who saw it as easy to exercise a priestly ministry in his caring for victims of society in his casework. Now he is a bureaucrat and he has to think through it all again and his thought is moving towards the idea of structural sin and structural redemption and he sees his administrative role as one of enabling others to exercise ministry in their casework and as bringing a touch of humanity to a system where people are code numbers on computer. He talks honestly of how ordination and the life beyond it has humanised him and how he has striven to integrate his homosexuality with his ministry without either denying it as a real and vital part of himself or else going overboard and making it a big issue to the exclusion of all the other aspects of his personal development.

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