As an ordained minister, I know that ministry includes much more than the work of clergy. In Anyone’s Ministry by Gordon B. McKeeman I encountered definitions and descriptions of ministry resonant with my own. According to McKeeman:
- a quality of relationship between and among human beings that beckons forth hidden possibilities;
- inviting people into deeper, more constant,more reverent relationship with the world and with one another;
- carrying forward a long heritage of hope and liberation that has dignified and informed the human venture over many centuries;
- being present with, to, and for others in their terrors and torments, in their grief, misery and pain;
- knowing that those feelings are our feelings, too;
- celebrating the triumphs of the human spirit, the miracles of birth and life, the wonders of devotion and sacrifice;
- witnessing to life-enhancing values; speaking truth to power;
- speaking for human dignity and equity, for compassion and aspiration;
- believing in life in the presence of death, struggling for human responsibility against principalities and structures that ignore humaneness and become instruments of death;
It is all these and much, much more than all of them, present in the wordless, the unspoken, the ineffable.
It is speaking and living the highest we know and living with the knowledge that it is never as deep, or as wide or as high as we wish.
Whenever there is a meeting that summons us to our better selves, wherever
- our lostness is found
- our fragments are united,
- our wounds begin healing,
- our spines stiffen and
- our muscles grow strong for the task,
there is ministry.
I need ministry when I’m scared and uncertain. I need ministry the most when I resist it. I benefit from ministry when I’m not strong enough alone to trust – to trust that difficult experiences are there to transform me. If I let myself experience ministry, just like Jacob after wrestling with the angel, I am forever changed and marked by a hard won scar of remembrance.
Whether lay or ordained, ministry is going on wherever “fragments are united” and whenever the stories of when we got this or that scar are shared among us. Ministry is how the wounds gradually heal and we walk on together in companionship, as witnesses to one another’s lives.