BY REV CANON THOMAS LESLIE
The Diocese of Wangaratta’s commitment to ensuring that it has a diverse and secure future continued to take concrete shape in the Cathedral on Saturday 23 February, as around 150 people engaged in a day of both ‘upskilling’ and of celebrating one of our most valuable resources: our lay ministers!
Representatives from parishes all across the diocese gathered in the cathedral precinct, attending workshops on serving and sanctuary ministries, pastoral visiting, children’s ministry, lay eucharistic administration, and the all-important Safe Church protocols. The workshops created a space for people to exchange ideas around ways they are already serving within their own parishes, as well as to ask questions about the ‘hows and whys’ of particular skills or roles. Most importantly, it also gave time for newly appointed Parish Safe Church Officers to meet with the Diocesan Safe Church Team, as together we work through essential Safe Church paperwork and protocols in our parishes.
The day began with an address from Bp John which encouraged parishes to look with excitement towards a future in which ministry is less clericalized than it was historically in this diocese: where ‘the priest at the altar’ is not ‘the minister’, but where all of Humanity is understood to be involved in the working out of God’s purposes: where all of us, male and female, aged and youth, lay and ordained, have particular skills and gifts to exercise in a shared ministry. After all, the reality of our identity as members of the Church should be that we understand Christ calling us to minister in his name and, according to our gifts, to be instruments of his love in the world.
Celebrating this shared ministry as one diverse, witnessing, Body of Christ was the focus of the eucharist at the close of the sessions, presided over by Archdeacon Clarence. During the course of this simple, prayerful service, those holding special episcopal licences for various roles within parish and diocesan life were affirmed, recommissioned and blessed by the Archdeacon, and reminded that their ministry is an important aspect of the shared work of all our amazing volunteers.
As we look to a future where the work of the church in communities continues to take new forms, and to be administered by a great variety of hands, may sessions such as this help us each to encourage the ministries of all God’s people, as the Spirit distributes gifts among us all.