by Fletcher Lowe
During my sophomore year in college, I got a note from the Dean of Students to come to his office!! UGH! What had I done to warrant that? So, dutifully and a bit nervously, I came at the appointed time and was ushered in. The Dean asked me to sit down, and then asked me a question: Had I ever thought about the Ministry?
The Ministry, really? I answered that it had never occurred to me. He said that he would like for me to give it some thought and prayer. And then I left. WOW! That conversation did percolate in my spirit, eventually leading me to seminary and ordination in the Ministry.
Early on in the Ministry, spending quality time with parishioners where they worked, I began to see that the Ministry was far broader than clergy. My sense of the Ministry opened up to include all the Baptized as they live their daily live on the job, in the community, in the home.
For whatever historical and theological reasons, the Church, however, has been more exclusive than inclusive in its sense of the Ministry. Mark Gibbs, over 50 years ago put it this way:
The secular laity are not called by God to any lower standard of discipleship than clergy or churchly laity. They are not limited to any less standard of life and witness. They are indeed, God’s first line of agents in the world. He has placed them and can use them in secular structures where the clergy can seldom penetrate.
So the Dean, not only in his conversation with me, but in the countless other aspects of his work, was exercising the Ministry. It is the Church’s responsibility to affirm to its laity that who they are and what they do constitute the Ministry.
J. Fletcher Lowe, Jr. is the convener of Episcopalians on Baptismal Mission, a group of lay persons, priests, and bishops committed to promoting the ministry of all the baptized in their daily lives. Rector emeritus of Holy Comforter Episcopal Church in Richmond, Virginia, Fletcher is the author of Baptism: the Event and the Adventure, co-editor of Ministry in Daily Life, and co-author of Radical Sending.