Last week was the first anniversary of my ordination, so I was looking back on the promises that I made just one year ago, and reflecting on how much has changed and how much I have grown in one year. The promise that stood out to me was this: to maintain the truth of the gospel, whatever trouble or persecution may arise.
I suspect that the original authors of the URC ordination promises primarily meant trouble from ‘the world out there’ and that they meant something fairly traditional by ‘the truth of the gospel’ (although I may be wrong, assumptions make an…). What I have learnt in the past year is that the trouble is in all of us (outside and inside the church) and the truth is more complicated, controversial and exciting than many of us want to admit.
When I was a tweenager, WWJD – What Would Jesus Do – bands were very popular. So, of course, as a good Christian youth I wore mine regularly. I even got a dark green one to match my school uniform after a tense series of exchanges about religious freedom. I was told (I can’t remember now by whom) that whenever I felt tempted to ‘sin’ I should look at my WWJD band. Hm…
Anyway, I still really like the phrase, though I mean something quite different by it now. I mean that I read the Bible, and assess my ministry, through the lens of ‘What Would Jesus Do’. And there are myriads of answers to that question depending on the situation that you are asking it from. I promised the church that I would maintain the truth of the gospel, whatever trouble or persecution may arise. The thing is, though, that I think that what Jesus would do first is practice what he preached.
So here are some new ministry promises that I want to make to God, the URC, the Churspacious Community, and myself today.
I promise that I won’t work in crisis mode. I will rest when I am tired and work later. I will trust God to steer the ship, knowing that I don’t do any of this in my own power anyway. I will find volunteers and leaders to share the load.
I promise that I will feed myself when I am hungry. I will take proper breaks for snacks and meals. But this is about more than just that. I will take time for reading, for prayer, and for spiritual conversations that feed me. Self care is not selfish and God wants God’s people to be fed. I will encourage others to do likewise.
I promise that I will get angry about injustice and that I will express that anger openly, in healthy and helpful ways. I won’t hide behind politeness or compromise. I will always frame that anger around systems, not people, and I will converse in reasonable and helpful ways that teach and do not harm. But I will not concede to unjust systems. Jesus didn’t. I will stand up for ‘the least of these’ and for myself. I will equip others to do likewise.
I promise that I will not be controlled by people or systems. Calling is a privilege and a joy that I very, very much cherish. It comes from God and from the church – from communities of people. Calling can, however, be used to control. I will discern my decisions, actions and words with the help of the Holy Spirit, and listen carefully to experience and advice. But, ultimately, God comes first and the most persecuted of God’s children are next in priority. I will not hesitate to speak about, act for, and side with justice, no matter what trouble or persecution may arise. I will come alongside others who do likewise.
May it be so.
All the reflections in this post are my own, and not a statement of Churspacious or the URC.
With thanks to Adam Earle for his inspiring drawing of Jesus.