When a group of people gathered recently at the Windermere Centre to share their experience of ministry the challenge was to find the appropriate collective description. Non Stipendiary Ministers, Ministers in Secular Employment, Self-Supporting Ministers were descriptions on offer. To describe a person’s ministry depending upon whether she or he are on the URC payroll or not does not seem satisfactory. This was a deeply impressive group of people who brought a rich variety of life experience to the ministry of Word and Sacraments. Some live out their calling in local churches, some in chaplaincies, some in the work place all of them with a deep pastoral heart and a desire to live out the Gospel.
When the United Reformed Church first received this gift of what were first called Auxiliary Ministers and later Non Stipendiary Ministers from the Churches of Christ there was a hope that the world of work and leisure would influence and direct the whole ministry of the church. Regrettably the church has not always been as open as we should have been to what these ministers not on our payroll bring to us. We need to encourage more people to bridge that gap between world and church.
In the break between that event and another gathering at the Centre Carla and I walked up Scafell Pike. The effortwas sufficiently demanding for us to boast of the achievement and the experience did offer some insight into the journey that the church is on. Part of the route to the summit is across boulders that you need to scramble over, there is no obvious route you set off in hope and trust. There are times when you need to descend in order to ascend and the advice of other walkers is always welcome. For this allegedly retired minister there were moments of exhaustion and doubt as to my ability to complete the climb. When we did get to the top the views were stunning and I will wear the ‘I climbed Scafell Pike’ badge with pride.
Back down the mountain to the conversation ‘When Church and Kingdom Collide’ and further explorations with peoplepassionate about the United Reformed Church. One phrase that will stay with me is the observation that there can be Kingdom without Church but there cannot be Church without Kingdom. I will continue to seek out signs of the Kingdom in my journeys across the URC.