It is a funny thing, being ordained. Well, it isn't funny at all; it's a serious business, but it is a funny old thing. The process of being called by God to ordained ministry (the only ministry that I can speak of - other ministries are available) goes a little like this:
- Go to church with the family
- Grow a little
- Grow a lot
- Be born again (if that is your thing)
- Feel the gentle constancy of God's call
- Say "yes"
- Jump through many hundreds of discernment hoops
- Put on the collar after a jolly old time with the Bishop and the Holy Spirit
- Stop going to church
But you see up there in the list - the whole going to church thing, well that halts at about the same moment that the professional church provision begins. Providing and facilitating 'church' is not about 'going'. I accept that this probably sound ridiculous, but it is a fact. The Eucharist, for me and others with whom I have discussed this, is about managing little arrangements to enable the prayer and praise of God's People to go as it should. As a priest, I either preside or I worship - the two rarely overlap.
I know that some of you still are not convinced. Some of you may be mildly irritated by my words given that we have the perfect excuse to be doing the whole church thing all the time. Part of the calling to priesthood is to approach God with the 'people on our hearts' (Michael Ramsay's idea from "The Christian Priest Today") and to approach the people with God on our hearts. This connects with Bill Countryman's idea that priests exist on the "border of the Holy" - all of which is short hand that tells us that our church, our nourishment and spiritual edification, is to be found away from the community to which we are called to minister. Sometimes, this is a hard thing for new priests to grasp - as there are times, believe me, when we don't feel like we have had a moment with God for weeks or months - a moment with God for ourselves, that is. We are called to have that space elsewhere. If anyone feels called to priesthood to be closer to God, then I would suggest that their wires are crossed.