Should any green ordinands (aka ministry formation students) ‘fall’, where do they go? I sent thankful video greetings across the globe this weekend to my best man, at my wedding, celebrating a significant birthday landmark - cheers Chris - and it set me reflecting on what has happened to my immediate generation of would-be clergy…
A little like ‘green bottles on the wall’ (though in our case ‘on a holy hill’) almost all of us are no longer ministering in the Church of England - bar the one who was made a bishop: some left over the slowness to act on sexism, some (like my best man - for life-giving politics) because of homophobia, one to work on public ethics, another as her artistic gifts were too constrained, another found themself space in the Church of Wales, three of us even came to Australia with two of us now serving in the Uniting Church. I’m thankfully not aware of any of us in jail for abuse - though that’s another thing we’ve had to live through. There’s several significant stories there about the history, struggles and failures (not least talent drain) of the Church of England (and other mainstream Churches) in recent decades. Did all but one of us ‘fall’ however, or did we just find fresh spaces, fresh uses, and share in fresh wine? Even - sometimes especially - where bottles are put aside, or still more broken, the glass and fragments find new life. I wonder in this too where the many ordinands/formation students I have taught and shared with will find their expressions over time. Ordained ministry today continues to offer rewarding invitation - and I’m impressed by the depth, quality and growing diversity of some I know - but it’s become a really tough gig in so many ways. I’m so thankful for those amazing signs of embodied new life and for those (lay and ordained) who encourage veterans like me to carry on, pretty battered at times as we are now from the hurts of living on pioneering edges for so long.
Anyway, I’m particularly really proud right now of my friend Chris and his ‘after priesthood’ ministry (including his current efforts on democratic accountability, including efforts to help clean up years of British establishment collusion with Russian oligarchs) - different pathways in recent times but with similar aims and values - and may God bless all green bottles, wherever we find ourselves.
This 'Love Letter to the Church of England' also touches on this well....
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Jo Inkpin is an Anglican priest serving as Minister of Pitt St Uniting Church in Sydney, a trans woman, theologian & justice activist. These are some of my reflections on life, spirit, and the search for peace, justice & sustainable creation.