So recently I have been exploring my calling to the ministry. What a lot of people don't know is that two years ago I was called to my minister's house (covenanter at that time) and told that he felt “God was working in my life” and after discussion we both felt that God was calling me into His service.
Super! But then just as quickly as the topic of ordination had been raised it was scuppered.
|Banner of the Covenanters|
For you see chapter 12 of the “Testimony of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Ireland is entitled “The Church and Secret Societies”. It then goes on to rightly and Biblically denounce “unscriptural secrecy”, “unlawful oaths”, “unsocial benevolence”, “unchristian fellowship”. Freemasonry is of course the main target in the firing line (I'm not a freemason) but after a couple of pages of denouncing the masonic it moves the Orange Order into its sights. Which is where I - the loyal orangeman - fell upon the sword.
To the Covenanters the Orange Order is evil because:
“it usurps the place of the church” - For me the Order only ever encouraged me to attend my church, in fact it was the Order which first set me on course to turning my life over to Christ
“it's political emphasis” - I too wish the Order was more religious but then if it become more religious it is lambasted for taking the limelight from the church
“it's unqualified allegiance to the British Constitution” - The British government doesn't acknowledge the covenant and as such is breaking their promises before God, thus they are in sin and in opposition to Christ - supporting it is therefore sinful.
For these reasons (which are genuinely incorrect) the Testimony states quite clearly "it is inconsistent for Christians to identify with this Order.”
The implication was that a person in the Orange wasn't and could never be a Christian. Which understandably makes it quite hard to become a minister. The choice I had was leave the Order or leave the Church. Looking back I should have left the Order... I was young and thought of the Order as potentially a great tool for witnessing, a great example of a cultural organisation that had real power to change society for the better. But as I know now there is a large difference between potential and reality. But at the time I became disillusioned with church, mostly because I knew the Testimony (written by non members of the order) was actually incorrect, which made me wonder what else was incorrect. In time I just stopped going, preferring to sit alone at home singing Psalms and reading the Bible.
It would be a long time before I would go back to a church...
Like James Sharpe before me I decided to go to the Anglican tradition. Maybe one day like my fellow ex-covenanter Sharpe I too will become an Archbishop. But Archbishop Sharpe didn't have a great end... (to quote Alexander Shiels) "Upon the 3d of May 1679, several worthy gentlemen [covenanters], with some other men of courage and zeal for the cause of God and the good of the country, executed righteous judgment upon him” - that means they murdered him - though hopefully I won't end up the same way.
Anyhow, I've settled into Anglicanism quite well and do really enjoy the prominence communion plays within the church. I also enjoy the beautiful liturgy (I'm starting to sound like Pope Benedict XVI) and feel at home within the church. God is a Father rather than a punisher, someone to respect and love in reverence rather than obey through fear. Anglicanism has brought me closer to God but I worry. As I've mentioned in an earlier post I still feel called and I suppose it is something that shall never go away but I worry about my calling. I just worry about what the Anglican tradition looks for or understands by ordination. I mean how do I know if I'm called to be a Deacon and not a Priest? How do I know if I'm called to stipendiary ministry or non stipendiary ministry? High church or Low church? Does Ireland even have a High church? Now strangely in the Church of Ireland one cannot be called to the Priesthhood unless you are over 23, which gives me time to answer my questions.
I think the best place to learn the answers would be in a Church environment. After all I don't want to go to my Archdeacon in a couple of years time, discuss a calling, then go to a panel of clergy and another of lay people, and then the Bishop. Before entering University for three years. Becoming a deacon for a year and finally being ordained before discovering God is calling me to “Preach the Word of God” , not to a congregation but instead to some five year olds in Sabbath School Class rendering all that work pointless and worse my vocation mistaken.
This is where “Ministry Assistants” come in. I have discovered that in England churches can receive grants of about £5000 to take on board an assistant who will live in a member of the congregation's home and work in the church. Here is a quote from one Anglican church's advertisement:
“Thinking about future ministry? Want some hands-on experience in church work? Want to be part of God’s work here in North London?