“I’m not ‘holy’ enough to be a leader in the Church.”
I don’t know about you but I’ve heard this phrase NUMEROUS times from church members. Heck, I’ve even said it myself! But where does this perception that we aren’t good enough, or pious enough, or even nice enough to be leaders come from?
You know what I say when folks say those things? Poppycock! (I say it in my horrible British accent that still sounds heavily Southern).
I’m a born and bred Southerner, and there are things that are just done differently here in the south versus, oh I don’t know, ANYWHERE ELSE. One of the things that is implied and expected is that everyone goes to church. Growing up (and still today in a lot of places) you were expected to be at church every Wednesday night (all extracurricular activities ended by 5:00pm so you could make it to church) and at least twice on Sunday’s, once in the morning and then again that evening. Whether you called the man up front a pastor, preacher, or man of the cloth, they were all held in high esteem. He was put up on a pedestal for all to see his good example and try to emulate it. This is all done with an understanding that us common-folk could try all we wanted but we would never be on the same level as our pastor.
Growing up in that atmosphere, I bought into the whole thing. I thought my priest was this holy man that had the inside scoop on God and if I tried really hard I could *maybe* “touch the hem of his garment” hoping some of that holiness would rub off on me. I had him high up on that holy pedestal and he could never do any wrong.
Psh. Yeah right.
It took me until my last year in college to fully understand that priests are humans too.
Yep. They’re human, just like us. They make mistakes, they have a beer after a long day, THEY KNOW CURSE WORDS (and even say them sometimes!). So…, if they’re just like me then why can’t I be a leader in the church?
Here’s the thing: we are ALL called to be ministers. Jesus didn’t travel the world to spread the Gospel – his disciples did. They were ridiculed and called all kinds of nasty names because they were seen as common people and not clergy, but they got the Word out. They were able to connect to people across the board because they we just like them, common. Jesus didn’t say, “Okay guys, I’ll only let you talk about me to folks if I ordain you first. Then you’ll be good to go.”
Luckily, in the Episcopal Church, we have this handy dandy Catechism in the back of the prayer book to go to for answers. It’s super helpful. In it there is a section about ministry that defines who the ministers in the Church are.
Q: Who are the ministers of the Church?
A: The ministers of the Church are lay persons, bishops, priests, and deacons.
Q: What is the ministry of the laity?
A: The ministry of lay persons is to represent Christ and be his Church; to bear witness to him wherever they may be; and, according to the gifts given them, to carry on Christ’s work of reconciliation in the world; and to take their place in the life, worship, and governance of the Church.
The Book of Common Prayer, page 855
Do you see what they did there? Lay persons are listed first. And get a look at that definition! Isn’t that what we’re called to do in our daily lives as Christians?
So when you think that you’re not holy enough, or don’t pray enough, or blah blah blah, remember that we are all called to be ministers. We should all pray more, be more considerate of others, and be better every day. Why? Because we are all called to represent Christ to the world.
Disclaimer: Please note that I am not downplaying or making light of our ordained leaders. They are very important of our lives inside the Episcopal Church and I hold them in high esteem. I even consider some of them my friends.