What is Ministry?
If you feel called by God to some form of ministry or leadership in the Church, you should speak to fellow Christians about it,
and especially to your own Parish Priest. The following is a rough guide to ministry in the Church.
We all rely upon ministry in the Church, and every Confirmed member has a ministerial role to play - for which the Holy Spirit will assuredly equip them. When we sing in the choir, or welcome people at the door, or read the lesson, or lead the prayers, we are performing ministry. However, ministry is for outside church as well as inside it. When we visit the housebound, or buy a meal for a homeless person, or talk to a stranger about Jesus, we are performing ministry. Ministry is about as wide-ranging as your imagination will allow you to think.
There are also certain authorized ministries which involve dedicated leadership roles within the Church. These include ordained ministries and lay ministries.
Ordained Ministry - Bishops, Priests, and Deacons
Those who are called by God to ordination are called into one of three specific Orders of ordained ministry - the Orders of Bishop, or Priest, or Deacon. Those who are ordained into one of these three Orders may have many different and complimentary roles, but certain chacteristics, or charisms, unite them.
- Bishops (in whatever role they enjoy) are united by the charisms of unity and authority - they are called to unite the Church and to lead it, being a focus of the gift of authority which Christ gave to his whole Church (see, for example, Mark 16: 15ff). Being a Bishop is a full-time calling. A Bishop must be at least 30 years old.
- Priests (who serve in so many roles from prisons to parishes, hospitals to shopping centres) are all united by the charisms of leadership and sacramental authority - they are called to preside over sacraments when the Church gathers to baptize, or to share the Lord’s Supper, or to administer healing through prayer and anointing; they are a focus of the character of the Church expressed by scripture when it says “You are a royal
priesthood, a holy nation”. Priests may be full-time or part-time, and may be stipendiary (paid) or non-stipendiary (volunteer). All will have gone through a process of discernment and selection, followed by residential or
non-residential training of between two to four years. A Priest must be at least 24 years old.
- Deacons (whose varied roles encompass social work through to community care and mission) are all united by the charisms of service and humility - they seek to serve God’s people in practical ways, whilst preaching the Gospel of salvation; they are an embodiment of that character of the Church which Jesus expressed when he said that we must make ourselves the servants of others, even as he himself had come among us as a servant King. Some Deacons have full-time stipendiary roles, but most are non-stipendiary (volunteer). They are selected and trained in a similar manner to Priests. A Deacon must be at least 23 years old.
Lay Ministry - ALMs, LLMs, and CLMs
Leadership is not found exclusively amongst the ordained. God also calls lay people into leadership roles in his Church. They do not have the sacramental role of expressing one of the essential charisms of ministry through their lives and work, but they are nonetheless called, trained, and appointed for their specific leadership roles. The chief forms of lay leadership ministry in London Diocese are Accredited Lay Minister (ALM), Licensed Lay Minister (LLM), and Commissioned Lay Minister (CLM).
- Accredited Lay Ministers (ALM) work in full-time stipendiary leadership roles. They go through a lengthy selection process, and engage in several years’ training at a theological college or training course. They are employed to work in a specific parish or chaplaincy, usually in pastoral ministry roles. ALMs have, historically, included lay ministers known by titles such as 'Lady Lay Worker', 'Deaconess', and 'Stipendiary Lay Reader'. Today recruitment of ALMs is increasingly rare.
- Licensed Lay Ministers (LLM) are part-time volunteer leaders, who go through a process of discernment and selection, and are then trained by evening class (usually on a diocesan part-time training course or at St Mellitus
College) for three years. ‘Lay Readers’ are LLMs, but there are also other types of LLMs who have a much more focused and specific ministry, for example as preachers, or as worship leaders, or as children’s workers. Although they are based in a parish or chaplaincy, their license is universal, and they may transfer to other parishes, or go ‘on loan’ to other parishes to share their ministry skills.
- Commissioned Lay Ministers (CLM) are part of a very local and very flexible ministry of volunteers. Usually selected locally and put forward to the Bishop for Commissioning, they may engage in local parish-based training, or take part in a diocesan training course, or they may be commissioned on the strength of their existing experience. CLMs are commissioned to a very specific local leadership role within their parish or chaplaincy, and their ministry is not transferable to other parishes, unless they are re-commissioned elsewhere. CLMs may be commissioned to provide leadership as (for example) pastoral assistants, musical directors, childrens’ workers, toddlers’ pastors, worship leaders, home visitors, or any other local ministry task within their local church.
Other Forms of Authorised Ministry
Most people called to ministry in the Church find that they have a vocation (a calling from God) to one of the six ministries already discussed. There are some other authorized ministries however.
- Evangelists - the Order of Evangelists is a group of men and women belonging to “The Church Army”, and who are commissioned by their Archbishop to go out into communities, particularly amongst the poor and disadvantaged, and to preach the Gospel whilst also caring for the social needs of the people. The Church Army has a great force of volunteers, but those admitted as Evangelists are almost always stipendiary (paid) and full-time. Those who are commissioned as Evangelists become the officers of the Army, and are known as Church Army Captains (men) or Sisters (women); they have a simple uniform, and are selected and trained by the Church Army through its own training college. Those admitted to the Order of Evangelists are thereafter recognized as such throughout the Anglican Church.
- Monks and Nuns - there are some men and women who feel called to a ministry focused on a daily routine of prayer as part of a life lived in community. The form of community varies. Monks and Nuns and other Brothers and Sisters of religious communities sometimes live an enclosed life, but more often are part of a community which engages with society, and usually provides some form of outside ministry - educational, nursing, pastoral,
spiritual direction, work with the homeless, etc. In some Orders the members live in much smaller cell groups, but the ministry is still very focused on regular times of prayer through the day, and the giving up of possessions and family life, so as to devote time and energy to God and ministry.