Welcome to the College of Transfiguration, NPC - a provincial centre for the training of Anglican clergy.

LIFE AFTER COTT 
MINISTERIAL EXPECTATIONS

Friday, 29 April 2016 
 

It is with great appreciation and privilege to address you on this very important subject in your call to ministry of the Church, namely, Ministerial Expectations in the aftermath of your stay at College. A special word of thanks and ever-standing appreciation to Dr Vincencia Kgabe the Rector for her focussed deliberate leadership to create priests for our church in our Communion, together with the members of staff both academic and administration together with all the ordinands and all who make the running of this College smooth.  
 
I bring you greetings from the diocese of Port Elizabeth known to be a friendly diocese, in the name of the risen Christ, whose love commissions us to be true disciples of Christ. When I received an invitation to speak at SIM Sizwe Ngcobo thanked me for considering the invitation and hoped for a positive response, which indeed he got. 
 
 
1. The Vocation 
 
Ministry is a vocation, a call from God as in the words of the Ordinal (APB p.587-588). The bishop addresses the ordinands by saying, "we are here to today to respond to the call from God which you have heard in your heart and also discerned by the church". Thomas Keating sees ministry as “service which is the hallmark of one who is sent by God. The true prophet, martyr, spiritual leader, or teacher who does not try to dominate others. One cannot be a Christian without social concern. There is no reason why anyone should go hungry even for one day. Since resources are there, why do millions continue to starve? The answer must be greed ” (Invitation to Love: Continuum, New York. p.96). This reminds me of what Clarence Makwetu says, “Most of us still go hungry daily. Most of us are still swimming in the cesspools of misery ad degradation. As a result some of us have resigned themselves to erecting their ‘pondokkies’ next to the dumping sites , so that they are always on hand when the refuse trucks deliver the unwanted item from the shops in big cities and small town…in a land of plenty” (Azania Cheated: MX Print, Design and Advertising; Queenstown, pp 166,170).  
 
The call is first and foremost a closer walk with God daily, in a prayer and meditation discipline. This interior experience is geared to action. It is designed to soften up our self-centered dispositions, to deliver us from what is compulsive in our motivation, and to open up completely to God and to the genuine service of our fellow people (Keating: Heart of the World, p.13). The thought of the Johanine Church as a community of the resurrection ‘that you too may believe’ is a call to ‘feed my lambs; feed my sheep’ in love of the risen Christ (Jn. 19:35; 21:15-17). 
 
 
2. Discernment and Ordination 
 
The exhortation in the Ordinal reminds the ordinand of the response made to the call from God heard in the heart and confirmed by the Church in Fellowship of Vocation (FoV) and Vocational Direction Conference (VDC). The greatest problem here is to simple swim with the stream in a desire to be ordained without genuine repentance (Gk. metanoia) and conversion (Gk. epistrephō) in the true sense of the Word, as in Pauline expression to be ‘a new creation’, carrying the ministry of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:17ff). This is the greatest set-back in the discernment process as those supposedly called become chameleons in order to go through to ordination. The church Jesus prayed for is in the world; but we is not of the world (Jn.15:19;17:16).  
 
Ordination therefore is an ‘invitation to love’ and commitment of the disciples received and accepted in sacrifice and humility. It is a ministry which can only be performed in the strength God gives in Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit. As the Bishop concludes the examination questions at ordination, ministry is embraced with joy and courage, dedication and perseverance with determination to give one’s self genuinely to ‘this one thing’. That be the case, then the Lord who gives the will to venture taking up responsibility of his flock, also gives grace and strength to accomplish the duties. The priests need to capture this because people come to our pews in the church voluntarily, no one has forced them and yet when they are here they cause us headaches. The bones of the a bishop are martyred by his own clergy and the bones of clergy are martyred by their own bishops and people. Therefore the duties are accomplished by the grace of God and the strength from above. 
 

3. Operations 
 
The church is missional in nature. It is a moving seeking concern with a Mandate to ‘go and make disciples, teach, train nurture and mentor to do all things Christ has commanded. The greatest of these is to “love one another as we have been loved” (Jn.13:34-35). God commands us to love him with all our faculties – mind, heart, soul and strength; and the neighbour as self (Gk. agapē as in Christian love, concern). Our operation expectation hinges on constant prayer, being faithful to saying the Morning and Evening Prayer. This goes with reading and active meditation on the Scriptures, most times for centering/contemplative prayer. The Exhortation on the Ordinal and Canon 24 gives the gist of priestly duties.  
 
The work in the ministry has no end. There is no time when you can sit and say, "I'm done, I've finished", Greek word: tetelestai (it is finished). There is no tetelestai in this ministry, once you say tetelestai you mean all people are eating three day, life is comfortable and good, the get medication from hospitals, they are being served well in government institutions, young people having jobs. When things are just not right for the people you minister to you can't say tetelestai, it is finished. This ministry doesn't pay. It gives a stipend, a sustenance income which may not have an increment but nonetheless work. Your employer is God, it is not the bishop. Therefore you have surrendered your rights to God completely. You have no rights and you have nothing to claim all you have is responsibility. "When will I be paid for this responsibility?" On the last day when the Lord appears in the sky ans say, "Well done thou good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your King." That is what this ministry is all about. Ministry is about the love of the Lord of the vineyard, without entitlements or rights. This work of ministry requires thorough and wise planning. All parishes and Rectors to plan their activities around the diocesan calendar. Further to this, preparation of sermons begin on Tuesday which should be your study day, or any other. Your sermons should follow the lectionary themes, failing which, permission should be sought with the bishop for any other teaching to take place. 
 
The sequence of ministry should follow this desirable pattern: 
  1. Spend time with God 
  2. Plan time with your spouse and family, taking your ‘rest days’ for effective ministry to them.  Charity begins at home. 
  3. More time training, mentoring, praying with the leadership becomes very fruitful as it teaches  you to delegate and share the burden of leadership with them, especially for outreach  programmes in the communities around the parish church. 
  4. Pay attention to the congregation through the Parish Church Council in the exercise of different  portfolios of ministry engagements (Canon 28.4)
  5. A call to the wider church is important in ecumenical circles. The church must display the unity  of purpose and provide undivided prophecy to the broken world. 
 
Epilogue  
 
In conclusion I wish to bring things that seem to destroy ministry without any order of importance or preference. Recently the bishops have released Pastoral Guidelines for your study and comment in preparation for up coming Provincial Synod. Sex power and money are good things and are given from God. Once God is shut out of these they corrupt, and corrupt absolutely. Pride of status, laxity in prayer fasting and Bible study. Take care, watch and pray, do so without ceasing, warns Jesus (Matt. 26:41; Lk.21:36; Mk.14:38)
 
This ministry is not without opposition, possible from within the church, which is the worst, and in the cruel world. That is why we have martyrs in this church from ages past. 
 
Only grace from above enables us to do all these things. Amen. 
 
Right Revd Bethlehem Nopece
Bishop of Port Elizabeth.  


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