We may find we have opportunities to share the good news of Christ which come out of the blue. Our emphasis on sharing our stories and growing in confidence to share our faith will help us do this. Thevisit of the Archbishop ...has given all of us an opportunity to open a conversation.
Bishop of Swindon, preaching at the Admission Service for Licensed Lay Ministers, 27 September 2014
Hundreds of people gathered in Bristol Cathedral on Saturday 27 September to witness and celebrate the licensing of 14 new lay ministersfrom across the Diocese of Bristol.
The new lay ministers are:Astrid Domingo Molyneux, Neil Hutton,Regan Meares,Mary Pope, Joanna Strange, Paul Thurlow, Helen Clifton, Richard Clifton, Judy Helme, Julie Morgan,Christopher Newboult, Diane Simms, Trevor Cook andJudith Eckersley.
Following two readings from 2 Kings 6, the Bishop of Swindon, Rt Rev Dr Lee Rayfield drew parallels between the account of the siege in Samaria with the currentplight of so many across the globefacing daily acts of war and terrorism.
At times when God might seem to be so absent Christians might "want to keep their faith to themselves, feeling it is unsafe or uncertain to articulate or express it more publicly," Bishop Lee said. "We can lose confidence and retreat behind our walls for security.
But Bishop Lee used his sermon to urge us, "In the face of the challenges from without our response has to be to draw together rather than allowing them to infect us."
Bishop Lee then referred to the words of the Archbishop of Canterbury just a couple of weeks earlier in the same cathedral, "Justin said there is nothing better for anyone to do than become a follower of Jesus Christ. As preachers and teachers, our new Lay Ministers, are to demonstrate this. They are to be conduits and catalysts for hope and transformation. To point to the One who is the antidote to what is truly toxic to human beings. To lift people and to break the hold of all that suffocates or drains hope in God."
Judith Eckersley was one of those licensed in September. She says, "Itwas a truly wonderful and amazing day. The atmosphere, the choir, music, Bishop Lee, all made it very special, but the best thing was knowing that God was in the lead guiding me along. It has been a rocky road and I nearly gave up, but I'm so glad I didn't. There will be challenges, but I know that I am on the right path and God will be alongside. I believe His promise, 'I will never leave you or forsake you'".
Astrid Domingo Molyneux is another new licensed minister. She says, "The service was a wonderful culmination of the Formation Year, that saw a bunch of would-be lay ministerstransform from nervous, first-day-at-school hopefuls to nervous, first day-of-the-rest-our-lives ministers with a licence to... thrill. To go out and thrill others with the sense of what it is to be in a relationship with God, the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit.No pressure, then!
"The service was an uplifting and humbling occasion, greatly enhanced by the range of people who took time out to come along on the day to affirm us all in our new ministries."
Diane Simms loved how Bishop Lee brought the Bible reading from 2 Kings alive "and right into the 21st century, comparing the desperation of a besieged city to the current turmoil of of own world. The Bishop encouraged us to be like Elisha, refusing to believe God has deserted his people - instead being bearers of hope and good news.
"What has stood out for me in the lay ministrytraining is the constant reminder to ask the question, 'Where is God in this?'" Diane continues. "How does what is happening to us, to our church, to the people we meet day in day out, relate to what we know of God in the Bible and in our experience of God at work in our lives? And the better we know our Bible and the more deeply we reflect on our experiences the more able we are to see the connections. Maybe we can share some of those thoughts not just in sermons but also in ordinary conversations to help people glimpse God in new ways."
Joanna Strange says that making herdeclarations before Bishop Lee was a very emotional experience: "I felt God was saying to me Yes Jo, I have called you to this point, and I will continue to be with you every step of the way, you can do it in my strength! There was a real sense of the Holy Spirit working throughout the service and I think we felt (congregation as well as lay ministers) empowered to go out into the world and do whatever God's will is."
Judy Helme also talks of the emotion of the dayand that she felt as if shewere being"lifted along on a huge wave of support and love from those who attended the service. My reading was rather challenging but all was revealed in Bishop Lee's sermon. My own journey to Lay Ministry began in earnest three or so years ago with the Northern Ark initiative when I found I could no longer make excuses not to become more committed to God's work; being 'too busy' didn't wash - I needed to prioritise and God had to have the first-fruits, not the scraps of my time!"