Tonight we had the Cluster Council (if you're new to this blog, I am currently the Interim-Missioner-in-Charge of the Middlesex Area Cluster Ministry--the IMIC of MACM for short. It's three churches in places like Higganum, Killingworth and Northford) and I realized my role for those three wondrous and lovely communities.
I am their Cheerleader.
I'm actually the perfect match for this ministry because I've more or less given up on the traditional model of doing church (a congregation led by a priest to minister to the needs of the congregation). And MACM, God love them, isn't that. They practice, more or less, for better and for worse, what is called Total Common Ministry. That means the Priest isn't 'the Boss' and doesn't have the final authority in the community--the laos (the 'People of God') play that role and the priest is around to do certain rites and rituals that our brand of Christianity has assigned to an ordained person.
So MACM is a different paradigm for being church. The laity is in charge and I hang around waiting until they need a priest. I really, really like that. It's what I've always wanted "church" to be. And, I have, in my own way, as much as I could, tried to live that out in the three remarkable churches I served before I retired: St. James in Charleston, West Virginia for five years; St. Paul's in New Haven, CT for 5 years and St. John's in Waterbury, CT for 21 years. The problem was, no matter how much I shared MY 'authority' I dared to share and delegate to the laity, it was still my authority....
It is often difficult for those locked into the Traditional Paradigm of 'doing church' to recognize or acknowledge the radical distinction between that paradigm and Total Common Ministry. And what I've realized in my two years of 'doing church' in the Cluster is that most of them are either so used to doing it this way that they don't realize how remarkably distinct it is OR they are unconsciously locked into the old paradigm and don't realize that what they do, day to day, is anything special.
But they do it--whether they take it as routine or don't even realize it. THEY DO IT!
And what I decided tonight is that my role in their midst is to be their Cheerleader and point out, in all times and all places, that what Total Common Ministry 'is' and 'means' is remarkably and distinctively different from what 'the old Church' does and looks like that they need to understand how they have an understanding of 'church' that is more 'community' than 'institution', more 'egalitarian' than a "hierarchy", more 'all for one' than 'one for all'.
I am so honored, humbled and gifted to have fallen into this mission and ministry it takes my breath away. So what I will do, from this day forward, is always and everywhere let St. James and St. Andrew's and Emmanuel know that their 'communities' are functioning much more like the 'early church' functioned than the 'dying church' is functioning.
They need to know that they are special and unique and living out what being 'followers of Christ' really means. Not to make them proud....no, not at all, but to make them humble and vulnerable so that they might lean into being the humble and vulnerable People of God in Higganum and Northford and Killingworth.
For that is what they are.
I see it and know it.
My role is to make sure they see it and know it as well.
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