21 February 2015

not just cute, but members of the church

Today Vandriver and I were in Denmark for a very special service- the licensing and institution of the new Anglican chaplain at St Alban's Church, Copenhagen. [This chaplaincy is part of the Church of England's Diocese in Europe.]

Within the service was a "Rededication of the Ministry of the People of God". The archdeacon (leading the service, representing the bishop) invited representative members of the congregation to come forward and, one by one, offer their new priest an object symbolizing one aspect of ministry and ask him to take that on. 

For example, the organist presented the priest with a hymnal and said, Be among us as a priest using the power of music to deepen our understanding of God's Word. And then the whole congregation affirmed, Together, by God's grace, we will worship the Lird in the beauty of Holiness. 

I was pleased to see that one symbol was to be of "ministry with young people", and that the congregation was to affirm, Together, by God's grace, we will value the vision of our young people and nurture the faith of our children. I was also pleased that the person presenting this symbol and speaking the invitation to the new priest was indeed a child. And I almost jumped with glee when I saw that the "symbol" chosen was a Godly Play object! 

[The symbolic objects: water (representing baptism), oil (for healing), a Bible, a scroll containing the text of the Porvoo Agreement (an ecumenical agreement between, amongst others, the Church of Denmark and the Church of England), a stole, the City of Bethlehem (Godly Play / children's work), a hymnal, a chalice and paten (for Holy Communion), and a booklet about this church in its local context.]

I later reflected on the fact that the child was treated no differently than the organist or any other of the congregational representatives. He was not treated as cute or amusing, not merely tolerated or indulged, but he was acknowledged as someone of equal worth and accorded the same respect and responsibility (a responsibility within his range of competence) as others. 

And you know what? He wasn't the only young person being taken seriously at that church. Not by a long shot. Because the 'server', who poured water for the priest to wash his hands with, who accepted the offerings brought to the front of the church and then presented them to the priest, who held the Gospel book as it was read from - the server was a fourteen-year-old. 

Again, though, this was not highlighted in any way. She was treated (and acted) just like servers I've known in other churches, servers aged 28 or 55 or 74. I thought of 1 Timothy 4:12- Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers.

I spoke with her briefly after the service (which is how I learned her age). She said she'd been doing this for some years already. It certainly had been clear during the service that she was very used to these tasks, acting with a quiet confidence, unobtrusively anticipating where she needed to be and when. She then said to me, I'm not just the server; I'm the assistant sacristan (!).

And yes, as we spoke she was gathering the chalices and ciborium and other "silverware" into a basket to carry back from the chancel to the sacristy for cleaning and putting away. I showed her this photo and asked if I could post it on the internet. Of course! she said, and explained, I do this for God

What a joy to see her serving in this way, with her gifts recognised and put to use, affirming her worth within the Church.

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