Recognising the formal ministry of some lay people includes celebrating those who are recognised as natural ministers anyway, placing them so that they can nurture the ministry of others, and deploying them to be creative with new possibilities in the life of their churches. These are three things I didn’t say introducing the authorisation of five Parish Lay Ministers in Cleethorpes on Friday.
They are authorised with the permission of the Bishop, but the Bishop does not authorise them lest it look as if he is licensing them. They only work on the basis of a parish Working Agreement, but the parish does not authorise them lest it looks as if they are only part of a parish rota. So, somewhat incongruously when compared with other aspects of his or her role, they are authorised by the Rural Dean, and I think I made a satisfactory fist at introducing the role they are to play in the life of their parishes when doing this for the first time, before asking the three parish priests to introduce their candidates.
One highlighted the way a candidate had simply been a natural lay leader in the life of the church anyway, something the parish hoped is now enhanced by further training and authorisation. It prompted me to remember the way Elders were identified in an ecumenical church of which I was part where from time to time each Member is asked to note who he or she looked up to in the life of the church.
Another highlighted the way he hoped new Parish Lay Ministers would animate and involve others in the worship they helped lead. It prompted me to remember the way cascading training and collaborative working was meant to be built into the old Local Ministry Scheme in the diocese.
The final one highlighted the new things which were already happening in the life of the church through what a candidate had been doing. It prompted me to remember a warning I’d heard before that the multiplication of lay ministry can just be a way of keeping the old model of the church on the road by covering the tasks clergy could no longer cover rather than beginning something new.