27 July 2022
On holiday in Sydney recently I attended the funeral of a family member of a close friend. The person we were farewelling had apparently lived an ordinary “unremarkable” life, which included managing an aggressive illness and series of medical interventions in their last 22 years. Despite their “unremarkable” life, a packed church and family stories pointed to a life of faithful contribution expressed in both secular and faith settings
I came away inspired by the power of “one quiet life” – by an ordinary member of an Anglican church whose life had an impact. This has led to me to think about the current season of “Ordinary Time”, found in the church calendar between Pentecost and Advent.
For some, it can feel like a season of marking time, while others may be tempted by our cultures’ – secular and sacred – tendency to equate ordinary non-achieving time with wasted time. As churches lose members and critical mass, many are understandably feeling weariness at the thought of gearing up to achieve growth.
I have been encouraged by the reminder of one theologian that “ordinary time” is a season for living out our vocation – for persisting in our walk of faith as we recall that every Sunday is a celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Our scriptures tell many stories of leaders who are forced through challenging circumstances to encounter God differently – and then to be taking one small step after another in what the writer Eugene Peterson calls “a long obedience in the same direction”.
This was true of the prophet Jeremiah as he delivered God’s call to the children of Israel exiled in Babylon to “seek the welfare of the city to which I’ve exiled you and pray to the Lord for it, for your welfare depends on its welfare” (Chapter 29). This call was followed by the Lord’s reminder of his plans for this community: “plans for well-being and not for calamity … to give you a future and a hope … you will seek me and find me when you search for me with all your heart”.
I believe this is the call to all of us right now: to remember God’s promise of hope and a future as we continue to seek him. Perhaps a first step in this is to be praying for increased well-being and healing in our parishes and local communities. A second step might be to reach out to someone we notice who needs some support.
Over 120 diocesan priests and ministry leaders choose to take a series of small steps as they meet with a coach provided by the diocesan coaching program. In this confidential space they reflect each month on their faith and leadership journey. This regular investment helps them re-connect with their vocation as they explore how best to attend to parishioners of all ages and with their wider communities.
We can be all be on this journey. Formally or informally within God’s providence, our quiet steps of faith will count for something.
Carol Clark is manager of the Anglican Diocese of Melbourne coaching program.