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Hallo again to all.

Once upon a time, long ago, we considered the idea of Holy Orders. That consideration involved a year of meetings and much more paperwork than we liked. After all that, we couldn't proceed to the next step. This was a fairly wrenching turn of events, and we wondered just What It All Meant. We accepted the decision as being of the Holy Spirit, communicated even through committees. The Blessed Order of the Lay recruiting posterWe didn't consider, for a moment, finding ways to continue our exploration and pursuit of Orders. We sighed, prayed, and pondered for several weeks, still lost in What It All Meant. If Holy Orders weren't what God had in mind, well, then, we had been kept amongst the laity for a reason. Getting on with life would eventually reveal to us that reason, we trusted.

Since that long-ago time, we've occasionally brooded about the desire for Holy Orders. In many first-world Anglican churches, the number of people in the pews is declining, but it often seems that every committed Anglican man or woman in those pews is keeping an appointment with a selection committee, is off to theological college, or is about to speak to the vicar about a call. Whilst not discounting these movements to answer an apparent call, we wonder whether we know what we're leaving behind when we pursue it. How can we know if we're called to traverse the boundaries of the 'order of the laity', conferred on us at baptism, if we're not clear about its power and promise of that order?

We're not particularly concerned here with the Priesthood of All Believers and we're not focussing on the concept of the laity celebrating the Eucharist with the priest as their representative. Instead, we're focussing on workplace, as it were, of the laity. Not confined to a parish, a place, or a diocese, we lay folk have the entire world in which to advance the Kingdom of Heaven—the 'Field is the World' indeed. We are under no explicit obedience, except that of any man or woman within the generous boundaries of the Ecclesia Anglicana. Beyond that we are free. We can do anything we can dream to advance the Kingdom of Heaven. But... why do we lay people not take advantage of this extraordinary order in which we find ourselves? Instead, many of us long for the confines of the clerical collar. As a dearly loved friend wrote years ago, the question we should ask is this: 'Would I work best in the collar or out of it? For me, out of the collar. Taming is not the best way to refine my particular gifts. The Collar is Glory and Curseóthe mark of readiness, willingness, dependability, giving, placing oneself voluntarily in authority'. Winding its way

We recall an anecdote (alas, we can't trace the source) about a bishop who said to a candidate for Holy Orders: 'Indeed we're glad that this day we shall ordain you to the Sacred Order of Deacons, for we can't entirely trust you with the freedom of the laity'. And what freedom indeed! Whatever we do well, whatever we enjoy, whatever talents we have been given—all can be turned to God's service, in some way, somewhere in the world.

This isn't an argument against the pursuit of Holy Orders; rather, it's an apologia for the power of the laity, which often seems forgotten or long lost. Dear friends in Orders, we stand in admiration of your call and your readiness to answer it. You are those whose lives are fashioned for the ministry of place and parish, set off by collar and commitment to serve a particular place and people. We simply think it time to be clearer about the possibilities inherent in the freedom of the 'lay order'.

Most of us long for some sort of recognition, some sort of credential, club, or uniform that signals to the world what we are and what we do. Those of us in the Blessed Order of the Laity lack those things. Yet that may be our greatest gift. We're marked only with a sign of the cross on our foreheads, made at our baptism. But our invisibility makes us God's secret agents. 'The Holy Spirit may be more a preoccupation of the laity, since that may be the laity's true role: to be the expression of the Holy Spirit', wrote our same dear friend. 'To bring the outside In, to be like wind, like ruach, nefesh, pneuma'.

See you in the streets. And, as always—See you next week.

Brian Reidís signature
Cynthia McFarland
Brian Reid

Last updated: 25 May 2003

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