14 people gathered at Luther King House for the Vocations Fair on Saturday 16th March. There were people interested in stipendiary ministry, self supporting ministry, Church Related Community Work and there were people there to speak about the different ministries as well as about the variety of training and education which might offer a step on the journey. The day began with worship which included a reflection on call, recognising that call might be to work which was church based but might equally be to some form of secular employment. It recognised too that vocations, ministry and call are all part of the same journey which can develop over years and may have many stages.
There followed a number of short talks from people Telling Their Story – this is where I spoke about the vocation of elders. Using something of my own story and my clear call to eldership as opposed to Ministry of Word and Sacrament, I talked about the important bridge which elders can form between the secular world and the world of the church. I used the stories of people I have known, the elder who when asked to take on the role of Church Secretary recognised that she was not required to do it in the same way as the previous post holder. The result was that she used her considerable pastoral skills in a way which the previous Church Secretary (an Accredited Lay Preacher and Bible Study Leader) admired and even envied.
There was the elder who had never done any higher education who, persuaded to undertake the TLS Gateways into Prayer course, now wrote the most beautiful prayers. Or the carpenter who was the most skilled theologian which a church had. The skills of elders are considerable, are often unrecognised and undervalued but are essential to our life together.
One of the things which I thought it important to reflect on was my pride in the United Reformed Church. Which other denomination would take the step of appointing an elder as one of its two Assembly Moderators – equal in status. My experience over the last two and a half years is that this is not a factor which is recognised only amongst a few in the councils of the church but is also recognised in the churches I have visited and amongst the people I have met. Eldership is a precious ministry and we can even say admired and envied by some in other places – let’s be proud of what we have!