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FORTY YEARS ON

On the feast of the Epiphany, I shared in the celebrations to give thanks for the 40 years of ministry of the Reverend Canon Huw Mosford. Huw is Canon Residentiary of St David's and Dean of Bro Lliedi. He has spent more of his ministry in the Church in Wales, but also served in Jamaica and as Director of Ministry for the Missions to Seafarers. Some of you will remember him preaching at All Saints. Huw and I were at university together in Wales, and he was one of the people who influenced my own decision to seek ordination. Though ordained three years after Huw, our ministry has spanned a similar time frame. Over a glass or two of fine Welsh malt whiskey, we reflected one evening on the huge changes that have taken place in church and society since our ordination.

There have been many positive changes. When we were ordained, only men could be admitted to Holy Orders. Now women are fully integrated into the ministry of the Church. There was then very little understanding of the ministry of the laity; and now the gifts of the laity have been released in the service of the Church. We have also seen a greater freedom in the patterns and styles of worship which has breathed new life into many congregations. But there are other changes which have been more challenging. In the last forty years, there has been a steady decline of the Christian influence in society. This is apparent in education and in our national institutions. Forty years ago even those who had no personal faith, still had a respect and good will for the Church. This is no longer the case, due more to the growth of militant humanism, than the presence of other faith communities. When we were ordained, most baptisms, weddings and funerals took place in the Anglican Church. Now only a minority turn to the Church for the "occasional offices". We have also seen during this period the erosion of Sunday as a distinctive day. Forty years ago, supermarkets did not open on Sundays. Now Sunday is one of the busiest shopping days and the most popular day for children's sporting events.

But there have been other profound changes in society which have influenced attitudes. Most people under fifty probably have very little Christian background. There is a huge gulf between the Church and the young. Churches are trying to respond to the challenge in new and imaginative ways. In our own parishes, "Messy Church" and "Open the Book" are reaching out to those who would not be attracted by traditional ways of worship.

Many of us older clergy are struggling to understand the huge cultural shift that we are living through. As our Bishops keep reminding us, new ways are needed for the survival of the Church and to pass on the faith to the next generation. A recent report I read put it like this "If we just carry on with what we are doing, it will lead us to the point where the Church and Christianity will be relics of a bygone age: relegated to the past, irrelevant, small and of no consequence"

This is a dire warning. But there are many signs of hope and growth in the Church. In our own diocese, there were over 30 people ordained last year as Deacons, not to mention a huge range of authorised lay ministries. It is to this new generation of Church leaders that we must look to give the inspiration and imagination to engage with the younger generations. Over the next few years, there will be a large proportion of stipendiary clergy retiring. This will mean the Church will need to embrace changes in the patterns and expectations of ministry. We need to pray for more vocations both to the ordained and lay ministry in the years to come. It is to them that my generation of clergy must pass on the baton to find fresh ways to engage with society and to win new disciples for Christ.

Stephen

 

 

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Page last updated: 14th Feb 2019 11:42 AM