Although, as John Betjeman observed, “it gets the trouble over quicker to go and blame things on the vicar”, the times are long past when we can leave everything to the paid professional. Neither can we assume that there will always be a paid professional to do everything. Like everything else, the church is changing rapidly, and changing in a number of different ways. In days gone by, there was one or more priest in each of England’s 13000 parishes; nowadays there are only 9000 paid clergy and 2000 unpaid, and even these numbers are expected to fall significantly in the next five years. We cannot continue as we are, expecting that a vicar will always be there for our parishes.
Of course, all of us can get more involved in our churches. God calls everyone who loves him into some kind of service. There are many tasks to be done, from cleaning the brass, mowing the churchyard, arranging flowers, playing the organ, reading lessons, and acting as sidesmen. If you are more of a committee person, in addition to the Parochial church council each of our parish churches has its own local committee with a treasurer and a secretary, and they are always looking for new members.
We can all play our part in “keeping the show on the road”. The Diocese of Chichester has published a useful set of leaflets describing what is involved in being a PCC member, a PCC Secretary, or even a Churchwarden.
But few of us ever stop to ask ourselves if God wants us to play a more significant part in our church. Is there a little voice at the back of your mind, which perhaps you have been trying to silence for a long time, telling you that God is calling you into a more formal kind of ministry? If so, there are many options to consider.
One is to join a religious order. Many people are surprised to learn that there are still communities of men and women within the Anglican church who voluntarily commit themselves for life (or a term of years) to holding their possessions in common, to a celibate life in community, and to obedience to the Rule of their order. Attached to some orders there are also lay people known as tertiaries, who, though following ordinary professions, are called to a dedicated life of service to our Lord through prayer, study, and work. For more information, click HERE.
In this diocese, you can become an Authorised Lay Minister (ALM). ALMs share in the public ministry of the local church, as they serve their local parishes. ALM ministry takes many different forms depending upon the needs of the parish, but in general ALMs work within or establish a team of people working in an area of ministry and they also work to encourage and develop the gifts of others. ALMs are ‘authorised’ by the Bishop to exercise a particular ministry within their local parish. Their authorisation does not extend beyond the parish into the wider diocese. They do not hold the Bishop’s licence and their authorisation is not transferable to another diocese. For more information, click HERE.
Another choice is to become a Reader (known in some dioceses as a Licensed Lay Minister). Readers are unpaid volunteers who, after selection and training, are licensed by their bishop to preach, teach, and lead certain services. There are now over ten thousand Readers in the Church of England, both men and women, and they perform a vital role, not only in parishes but in a number of other areas such as hospitals and prisons. For more information, click HERE, or speak to one of the Readers in the parish.
And, of course, God calls men and women into his service as priests. Nowadays the Church of England welcomes a wide range of traditions, personalities and backgrounds. All sorts of very different people are selected for ordained ministry, bringing invaluable gifts and experiences to help them do enormously varied, exciting and challenging jobs. Some choose to remain as a parish priest all their life; others may work as chaplains or in other specialised ministries such as work with young people, evangelism, community projects or the media. Some work full-time as priests, while others combine their ministry with their day job and are unpaid. For more information, click HERE.
If you have a feeling that God is calling you to do more with your life, now is the time to act on it. You can talk to any of the clergy in complete confidence. Or, if you’re not ready to do that yet, click here to find out about the exciting opportunities God may have in mind for you.
The Octagon Parish Volunteering Policy