I’ve always believed that walking alongside people and meeting them where they are to be at to be the very core of my ministry. I don’t think this approach detracts from traditional church centred Parish ministry; not at all, I believe it complements it.
As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I’ve had some amazing conversations with those outside the church about their faith and their beliefs over the years, particularly in the context of my role as Festival Chaplain.
I find it sad that so many have turned away from the church over the years and never returned. I know this is due to a whole variety of reasons and a conversation with such people often reveals that it is not their belief in God that was, or is the issue, but the institution that they believe the church to be.
As someone who is a part of that very same institution, it is sometimes difficult to defend the words and actions which have resulted in individuals promising never to ‘darken the door of a church again’.
One of the first barriers has to be the seeming inapproachability of clergy, and I totally understand that! We are a much misunderstood and often misaligned group of people, but basically, when you get to know us, we are just human!
At the Music Festivals, which take part in my village and where I am privileged to act as Festival Chaplain, people are initially so wary of this weird person they see wandering around in a clerical (dog) collar. It is one of the reasons why I deliberately put myself behind the bar and pull pints! But this action in itself solicits questions such as ‘Can you do that?’ or ‘Are you allowed to do that?’ My answers are generally light and something along the lines of: ‘Well… as Jesus turned water into wine, I guess I’m allowed to pull pints’.
This light hearted banter over the serving of a drink though, has a much more serious purpose; when I later walk around the festival site, instead of being avoided as some strange person in a collar that they don’t know how to react to, let alone how to speak to, people are much more inclined and intrigued to engage in conversation. These are the interactions which often lead to deep and heart felt questions and discussions around wide issues concerning faith and religion.
I am totally humbled that I am considered approachable enough for people to feel able to ask me these massively important questions. I don’t think for one minute that other clergy aren’t similarly approachable, I just think that I am fortunate to have these opportunities in my ministry, and I consider them a huge privilege.
The next such opportunity has just presented itself: I have been invited to lead Sunday Worship in a local pub garden (The Windsor Castle) on the afternoon of the 25th of this month! I am taking the amazingly talented Kezia Gill along to play and sing and I just can’t wait!
What a privilege!