An update from Dawn and John
“Here I am, Lord. Is it I, Lord?
I have heard you calling in the night.
I will go, Lord, if you lead me.
I will hold your people in my heart.”
The calling to Authorised Lay Ministry is a response to wanting to share in the public ministry of your local church and, last autumn, John Evans and I were nominated by Reverend Carol for the ALM course run by Manchester Diocese. Our ministry roles were identified: John’s for ‘Worship’ and mine for ‘Pastoral Care.’
We then applied and were accepted for the course which began in January 2019.
We have explored how our ALM roles will fit into the wider parish vision & mission statement and, at the Parochial Church Council (PCC) meeting on 11 July 2019, our Role Descriptions were presented and ratified unanimously by the members. We will be commissioned by the Bishop of Manchester at a special service in the Cathedral on Sunday 22 September.
ALM is unlike other forms of ‘licensed’ ministry as we are commissioned to work within a specifically agreed local context, as part of our wider parish ministry team, to serve, resource and encourage all God’s people to carry out the Diocesan vision to be a worshiping, growing and transforming Christian presence at the heart of every community.
Our shared ‘Core Module’ was 8 evening weekly sessions at St. Peter’s, Halliwell, with some collaborative days on Saturdays at Church House, Manchester. The two leaders, Rev’d Paul Hardingham and Rev’d Jo Smith were very different in their teaching styles, giving a really good balance and creating an extremely comfortable atmosphere in the sessions, which greatly contributed to the feeling of us all being amongst friends.
The course participants were wonderful! The wealth of experience and spirituality in the group was amazing! As we were from many different walks of life and at different points on our Christian journey, it was so good to be able to chat freely and learn from each other. The camaraderie was enhanced by being encouraged to sit with different people each week …and the coffee & biscuit break, with turns taken to serve, was very much appreciated. The course materials were excellent with a variety of presentation, including work/info sheets, power points, film clips… and plenty of discussion.
We also really enjoyed the Worship sessions which were led by different members each week. When it was our turn to lead the worship, we chose the passage from Isaiah 6, when an ordinary day for a young preacher turned into an extraordinary one. In a vision, Isaiah saw the Lord who had a message to deliver to the nation of Judah.
The Lord asks,
“Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?”
Willing volunteers were needed in God’s service and Isaiah didn’t hesitate in taking the opportunity:
“Here am I; send me.”
This exclamation from a grateful and enthusiastic Isaiah marked the very beginning of his ministry; the priest was now a prophet, and the Lord’s message for Judah became the Book of Isaiah.
John’s prayers after my reading were powerful and from the heart; the hymn chorus printed above is taken from Isaiah and we all sang ‘I the Lord of sea and sky’ with passion!
For our separate ‘Elective Modules’, John travelled into Manchester each week over 8 weeks and I went to St. George’s Church, Unsworth. Rev’d John Rosedale led my ‘Pastoral Care’ elective and his gentle manner and kindness were really inspiring. He certainly demonstrated and modelled extremely well the reflective (not deflective) methods of effective listening. I found this Elective quite challenging with many different aspects to take into consideration.
I am trying to follow the advice of St. Paul (in Romans 12:2) to ‘aim to be transformed by the renewing of our mind,’ and I certainly hope to continue to grow in self-understanding. My purpose is to reflect and to be an expression of the wider relationships in the parish, and my aim is to work collaboratively together with Reverend Carol and others in responding to God’s call.
Our mission here in the Parish of Walmsley is ‘Building partnership in Christ, church and community,’ and my remit over future months will be to help expand and lead a pastoral team across the parish to visit the sick and to take Holy Communion to the housebound. We will strive to fulfil the commitment to caring, giving and serving all of those whom God puts in our path, linking in and supporting – where appropriate – other teams within our own church and those in the wider Turton Moorland Team Ministry.
We know that God is constantly breaking into all of our lives and speaking to us… though we are not always listening. John and I are happy to report that Carol was listening… and helping God to nudge us in the right direction!!
I have now completed the Authorised Lay Ministry Course. Looking back, I can reflect on all the past months of study. When the Vicar first asked me to consider the course, I did so with concern and curiousness. I felt I was too old, but put my trust in the Lord and, with Dawn by my side, we began our commitment to our calling to ALM; and God has been with us.
As Proverbs 3: 5-6 says:
Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths.
I find it hard at times to understand in my own mind all the change and progress in this world, but I do believe with all my heart that God is calling us all to serve Him in the church; and where He leads we must follow. He has a plan and a purpose for us all at Christ Church and St. Andrew’s, working together to tell the Good News of Jesus and His love.
Thank you for your prayers and for the support you have given to both of us.