Weekly Reflection – 28th June – 5th July 2009

Posted on: Friday 26th June 2009

Tu es Petrus

Petertide, that season of the Church’s year in which we celebrate the life of the Apostle Peter, is traditionally the time for the ordination of priests and deacons. There is much to encourage them in his example. You are Peter, says Christ according to Matthew 16: 18, and upon this rock I will build my Church; but only five verses later, at 16: 23, the tone has changed, Get thee behind me, Satan!, which not only suggests that Jesus knew a thing or two about clergy, but also offers a realistic model for those clergy to aspire to. Christian ministry, depending as it does on the frail earthen vessels of Christian ministers, is often a slow progress, although you might not think so at the sight of those men and women this week emerging from theological colleges and training courses in their shiny new collars and stainless cassocks (among them Gillian Straine, late of this parish).

This year, however, some of them will be left behind on the starting line, because we seem to be producing more curates than we have jobs for. This is, in one sense, marvelous news, with more and more candidates, of very high calibre, offering themselves for ordained ministry, a statistic which bucks the downward trends we so often observe and gives us hope for the future of the Church. Last year London Diocese, for example, produced two dozen new curates, to serve in churches high and low from Cockfosters to Twickenham. This year the problem seems to be that some of the evangelical colleges, which have experienced a modest surge in numbers, simply can’t find enough suitable jobs for the Class of 2009.

Suitable jobs? It seems that some of their more hardline graduates are particularly picky over where they go. Career-minded conservative Evangelicals, like career-minded conservative Catholics, identify certain parishes as powerhouses, energetic in mission, rigorous in doctrine, the kinds of places where a bright young thing gets noticed. For them the prospect of spending three years in the Cambridgeshire fens doing BCP eight o’ clocks and Christingles is simply unthinkable, and definitely not part of the career-plan; so they hold out for a better offer.

I wonder if they’re not missing something here? It’s not their mission after all, but Christ’s; and dilatoriness in answering His call, or seeking to negotiate the package, seems rather nearer to Matthew 16: 23 than 16: 18.

Fr Richard Coles, Curate