‘This generation can change culture in church’ – Archbishop tells ordinands
The language and work of those in ordained ministry remains the same but the context of its life and application has changed utterly, Archbishop Michael Jackson told ordinands in the Church Ireland Theological Institute last week. They are still called to share Peace and the Kingdom of God, but these encounters now mostly take place online, he said.
The Archbishop was speaking during the first ever online commissioning of Student Readers at CITI. Year 1 MTh ordinands, Stuart Armstrong (Down & Dromore), Lee Boal (Down & Dromore), Timothy Eldon (Armagh), Cosmin Pascu (Down & Dromore), Arthur Sweeney (Tuam, Killala & Achonry), Melanie Sloan (Connor) and David Thomas (Down & Dromore) were commissioned by Archbishop Jackson. The service was coordinated on Zoom by the Revd Dr Paddy McGlinchey.
The Gospel reading [St Luke 10: 1–9] speaks of communities where people move around and enter one another’s houses and eat together, something that the Archbishop pointed out could not happen at the moment because of coronavirus.
“It sounds from the perspective of today like ancient history. The Church of Ireland is rooted in such communities. I would go so far to say that, in the current lockdown of fear, contagion, illness and death, we are diminished by the absence and the abeyance of such communities. But we live dutifully within The Guidelines. And The Guidelines, with increasingly sharp teeth, discourage gatherings,” he commented.
At various points in the hierarchy of restrictions, the Archbishop observed that churches had been given a special privilege of being allowed to gather indoors, with appropriate conditions. The end result of this privilege led others, who were not allowed to gather, to comment, he said citing a person on the radio saying: ‘So, then, we can all go to church but it is not possible to have a seventh person at a child’s birthday party…’
He said that comments like this should alert people of faith to their responsibility to use the opportunity for gathering, when permitted, to gather intentionally and in a focused way, to connect actual and virtual worship and study and community.
“We have this special opportunity in this generation to change culture in church; the old normal is not returning; and you are the family of ordinands who are being placed in a very particular front line of experience and of formation to deal directly and from the outset of your God–given ministry with a strange situation in the life of the church that can no longer be called unreal,” he stated.
Now, the Archbishop said, those in ministry should not refuse hospitality, but should establish a base where people could expect to find them on a regular and rhythmic basis. “All of this language remains the same, but the context of its life and application has changed utterly. Most, if not all, encounter is now on–line,” he said.