‘Our role is to spot where God is at work and join him there’ – The Revd Christopher West
The Revd Christopher West will be ordained to the Priesthood by the Archbishop on Sunday September 27 in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin. God’s call continues to be answered in the midst of a global pandemic and while the number of people who can be in the cathedral on the day will be restricted, the Service of Ordination will be livestreamed on the cathedral’s webcam for all to watch (link at the bottom of the page). Christopher is being ordained to serve as Curate in Taney Parish. Here he writes about his call to ordination.
There are two things I have always been passionate about: Jesus and his church. These passions have been nurtured by my parents, Linda and Nigel, who always encouraged me to participate in the life and worship of the church. Later, they would do the very same thing for my younger brother, Owen. I am immensely grateful for their continued support, encouragement, and prayers. I grew up attending, and was baptised and confirmed in, a rural parish in the Diocese of Armagh, St John’s Church, Mullabrack.
One of the clearest, and most influential, events on the journey to ordained ministry occurred in my early teens, during the Holy Communion. On that occasion, I was struck by the fact our Eucharistic Prayers often begin, ‘The Lord is here’. God is always ready, waiting to welcome us, his guests, with open arms. Coupled with that was a strong sense of being called to share this good news with others.
While working out what this might look like in a concrete sense for me, I applied for medical school. During my time at university, God used my friends and church community as instruments of his grace, communicating the particularities of my vocation. During my second year at medical school, I was again struck by God’s gracious hospitality in the Holy Communion and perceived a call to share this; so, to cut a long story short, I left medical studies to pursue formation for ordination with the Church of Ireland Theological Institute.
Studying the Foundation Course, and later the MTh degree, strengthened my sense of vocation. The fantastic staff in CITI and TCD encouraged me to think through how we might effectively interpret and apply God’s grace in Christ to contemporary contexts in Ireland. Through placements in St Mark’s Church, Ballymore, St Columba’s Church, Portadown, and Taney parish, I saw something of what this might look like in practice. I also discovered the importance of the ministry of presence: our presence with others in the difficult circumstances of life might serve as a parable of God’s presence.
Back in June, I finished serving an intern year in St Andrew’s Church, Killyman, having been made deacon on 1st September 2019. Through visiting many wonderful parishioners there, I learned what it means to say that God always takes the initiative. Our role is to spot where God is already at work in the world and join him there: ‘Go before us, Lord, in all our doings, with your most gracious favour’. I enjoyed completing my dissertation, on the Eucharist as embodied experience, alongside my internship.
As my deacon intern year ended, I was delighted to receive the good news that I had been appointed Curate–Assistant in Taney parish. I look forward to serving and worshipping alongside the people of Taney, continuing to grow in my love for Jesus and his church, after my ordination to the priesthood on 27th September 2020.
I recently learned that St Francis of Assisi described his early companions as ‘God’s jugglers’. By this, he meant they had encountered the risen Christ in Scripture, Sacrament, and stranger, and their lives had been turned upside down as a result. This phrase well sums up my own vision for priestly ministry. My life has been turned upside down by encountering Christ, and God has called me to set forth his love in Word and Sacrament, so that other lives might likewise be transformed.
You can watch the Service of Ordination of Deacons on the Christ Church Cathedral webcam on Sunday September 27 at 11am: https://christchurchcathedral.ie/worship/video-stream-1/