The Ministry of the Baptized
This initiative is to establish the daily life and ministry of the baptized at the center of parish energies.
The central rhythm of all parish churches is the movement of members from renewal in their baptismal identity and purpose to life and ministry in their workplace, civic involvements, and with families and friends. The parish church is called to support people as instruments of God’s love and light in all of life. It’s really about us learning to better cooperate with the organic processes of the parish—people become salt and light in Eucharist, prayer, learning and community so they might be salt and light in daily life.
For many parishes this involves a shift from asking lay members to focus on the institutional needs of the parish to a focus on the daily life of its members in the world. This calls for leadership that attends to the parish’s institutional needs in an effective and efficient manner while giving more attention to and respect for the baptized person’s daily life.
We need to start someplace. Here are a few things you could do as a beginning.
1. Review the parish web site and printed materials.
On a regular and frequent basis provide illustrations of the daily life ministry of the baptized in workplace, with family and friends, and in civic life. For example:
Testimonials -- examples from the Diocese of Chicago. There are two that stand out -- a professor of law and a health care worker. The "but" on this is that the one on becoming a mother is by a priest (yes, I know she's baptized, me too) and the other is focused on the person's work for the parish and the diocese. It's wonderful that they gave a nod to the primary ministry; it would be better to see us get the proportions right (9 out of 10 on work, family, friendships, civic life). Have a few on the parish web site. Seek stories from within the parish. The "rule" is that they must be about who you are and what you do in workplace, with family and friends and in civic life.
Remove or change material that suggest the real ministry of the baptized is about energies poured into the parish. For example, parish web sites telling us that the ministry of the baptized is within the church. Sorry to "pick on" just a few. Most parish web sites make the same mistakes.
- St. Paul's Bremerton
- New Song
- St. Mark's Philadelphia Makes the mistake of focusing "participation in worship" on all the needed server roles instead of how the congregation can participate. St. James in Austin does the same thing in a section called "Members of St. James' actively participate in worship services as"
Here's a clear statement --"the first and most important avenue of ministry for any baptized Christian is their daily life and work. What they do and say in their homes, at the work, and in their leisure. In addition to that, God calls each baptized Christian to take his or her place in the life, worship, and governance of the Church." -from St. John's Church, Grand Haven, MI
2. Sermons that make the connection. These will, and should, be mostly by the clergy. Sermons offered by apostolic laity with the needed gifts are a powerful instrument on this effort. Here's a sermon by James Cowan of Saint Paul's, Seattle.
3. Teach. Use the catechism on "the ministry of the laity" and provide a model that illustrates the process. For example the Renewal - Apostolate Cycle.
The Renewal ‐ Apostolate Cycle is a way of describing a central dynamic of Christian life. The Cycle focuses our attention on the Christian’s movement between being renewed in baptismal identity and purpose and living as instruments of God’s love and grace in daily life--in our families, with friends, in the workplace, and in our civic life. The cycle is between a conscious and intentional attention to God, prayer life, our relationships, Christian formation and a subconscious reliance upon God as members of the Body of Christ, in the workplace, family, friendship, civic life and congregational life. The primary task of the parish church is the glorification of God and the sanctification of the people. It is to provide the climate, prayer life and other resources that renew baptized members in their faith and practice so they may be instruments of the Divine Compassion in daily life.
4. The rector can routinely invite members to tell stories about their life at work, with families and friends, and in civic life. One-to-one in the coffee shop or over a beer. In small groups as part of parish formation programs.