Friday, 14 July 2017

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 11 June 2017

First a note to say that I am in holidays for a couple of weeks and so will not be producing a blog those weeks.

On June 11 the sermon did not take place because time was needed for the commissioning of a new Lay Preacher in the Uniting Church.

That new Lay Preacher is me, the one who brings you this blog most times.

I have been preparing for this for some time. To begin with there were classes in the Living our Faith series on eight weekends in: New Testament, Old Testament, Theology and one focussing on Jesus Christ. Within these courses there was opportunity to develop and practise the skills needed in leading worship. Readings were provided, as were assessment items to allow students to tease out their understanding of each course. In addition I needed to attend classes which examined the foundation and values of the Uniting Church.

I should say immediately that these courses were open to anyone seeking personal development, not just people considering the ministry of Lay Preacher.

But for those who had it in mind that they could serve God and the church as a Lay Preacher, other things needed to be considered. The Church Council of the Congregation to which the person belonged needed to prayerfully consider whether that person was suitable in the role and make a recommendation to that effect, Also, the minister leading the church to which the prospective Lay Preacher belonged, needed to write a recommendation too. Then a committee from Presbytery interviewed the person (twice).

But as well, the members of the church had to make a recommendation. This was done through assessments made by selected people during three services at the prospective Lay Preacher’s church and two services at other churches.

This is a very thorough process and it could be thought that it would take someone committed to be commissioned to undertake such a journey.

However this wasn't how it happened for me. I joined the first weekend without any idea of what was before me and certainly without any idea of becoming a Lay Preacher. Of course I knew many people present had that intention and while I was by no means certain that I had any such calling I completed the course work fully to allow whatever option God put before me to eventuate.

Initially, I was more concerned with attending the weekends to untangle and sort out much of my own thinking and to search for a belief where my mind was as comfortable as my heart. The version of Christian belief I had received in Sunday School and later didn't sit well with my other education and I often felt I was expected to leave my brain at the door when I attended services.

The Living our Faith classes provided the place where I could go that was able to do just that. Within the first two sets of weekends I knew I had found the place I needed to be. But still was I one to be any sort of leader?

The indication that Lay Preacher would seem to be a calling came with the completion of the assessments and the services I needed to lead as part of the course. I am not suggesting that I was wonderful at any if this but I felt I was in a place I belonged and I understood what it was that needed to be done,  and how, with advice, I could develop my ability to do what a Lay Preacher needs to be able to do.

But the most strong indication I had of a calling was that I could see how I could help others to find that place of contentment that I had found through completing the course. Others might not be able to attend the course but I could pass in my learning and my new understanding of the Bible and our Faith to them in church services, bible studies and  general discussions. And so, as each new step of the journey unfolded before me I became  more sure that Lay Preaching was a place I could serve God and his people.

And so, in June 11 the church confirmed that calling with my commissioning and celebrated it after the service with a lovely morning tea.

Can I say that this has been a life giving experience. I know that it is not possible for everyone to attend this course or any other, even for self development. But may I urge anyone reading this, to commit yourself to some reading, or audio or video series to focus your heart and mind and to provide a springboard from which you may fly into a faith life greater than you have now.  

Margaret Johnston.

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