Editorial: In praise of ministers
One Friday night in 1983, aged 13, I was cycling back from my church youth group. Not being the most confident cyclist, when I had to turn right on London Road, I dismounted and pushed my bike across the road. A speeding car hit the back wheel of my bike, and my bike then hit me at about the same speed.
I limped home with my wrecked bike and my mum opened the door ready to tear a strip off me for being so late. When she saw me covered in blood she changed tack, called the minister, and we went to hospital.
It was another minister who, not long after, told me that it was impossible for a Christian to be racist. I thought: Oh. Right, OK then. I realised I’d have to stop calling my friend Chana by his nickname.
Much later in life, the morning my dad died, another minister was the first person I picked up the phone to. Unsurprisingly, a minister married me and my partner; another baptised me.
A minister wrote one of my favourite songs and sang it at my 50th birthday party. A minister gradually re-engaged me with the possibilities of the Christian faith when I had had enough of it; she built a community where my battered faith thrived and grew.
A minister gave my teenage self a space to try out music and drama in public with my friends. One day a minister will stand near my coffin and say something that helps to draw all these threads to a conclusion.
Last week, I had the privilege of attending the United Reformed Church’s Ministers’ Gathering (see ‘Digest’, page 2), though being incorrigibly lay, I felt a bit of an imposter.
Many things struck me about it. One was how great a hall full of clergy singing hymns sounds. Another was how deeply happy a hall full of clergy seemed at being led in worship and not having to lead anything.
Another was the phenomenal collective burden they bore – all the second-hand grief and anxiety and pain, all the first-hand stress and exhaustion.
And then there’s the immeasurable scale of the collective impact they’ve had – the lives gently steered, nurtured, challenged, helped on to the next bit, confronted with love, picked up and put back on the rails – often without ever knowing what they’ve done.
Serving is a pretty small word for such a big deal.
Thank you, folks. God bless you.
This article was published in the June 2022 edition of Reform