Clergy facilitate people’s access to God
Tuesday marked nine years since my Induction as Rector at St John’s. Over recent days I have been rereading, ‘What Clergy Do – Especially When It Looks Like Nothing’, by Emma Percy, who is a Church of England minister or priest.
She has an interesting chapter called ‘Dependence and interdependence’ which I reproduce here in part:
“Central to the Christian faith is the underlying belief that we are always dependent on God. This is why religion is often dismissed as a weakness: it invites adults to admit to their dependency. The gathering together for worship is a time to focus on this dependency, which underpins all of life…
Thus we talk about coming into God’s presence, of drawing close to God and seeking at times a sense of resting in dependence, as if being held by the love of a perfect parent.
Aspects of worship and of pastoral care make tangible this sense of being fed, held and nurtured by God. This tangibility is mediated through rituals and through those who represent God.
Priests, through their ordination, have a particular responsibility for speaking and acting in God’s name. Formally in word and sacrament and informally through the authority of their ordination, priests communicate the truths and grace of God to those for whom they have responsibility.
It therefore follows that people are dependent on a parish priest for aspects of ministry that sustain their faith. She (he) is the gatekeeper for certain rituals and sacraments. Week by week members of the congregation are dependent on the priest’s role in the liturgy absolving them, feeding them in word and sacrament and sending them out with God’s blessing…
It can be tempting to stress the priest’s importance, focusing on her role rather than God’s grace. She is there to facilitate their access to God and their ability to receive from him all they need for their life of dependence on him.
The church is the community where people learn about God revealed in Jesus Christ, where they find the resources they need to strengthen and deepen their faith. The parish priest has a primary responsibility for overseeing the teaching of the parish and how the Christian faith is understood both formally and informally.
Many will have their understanding of God and of appropriate Christian discipleship shaped by the preaching and teaching offered in their particular church. The priest, to some extent, speaks in the name of God and therefore her theological understanding, her pronouncements and her behaviour shape people’s picture of Christian beliefs and practice.”
Do you agree with Emma Percy’s view of priesthood, which creates a healthy dependency between the priests or ministers and the People of God