A message from the Chaplain - September 2021
Dear friends, beste vrienden,
Why did Jesus have 12 disciples?
‘They were supposed to help him,’ we might think, but hang on a second. Jesus is the Son of God. The Messiah. God-in-flesh… God sent HIM to ‘help’ humanity, why would he need more help?
We might say, ‘The disciples spread the Good News of God’s Kingdom.’ True, but they often didn’t understand Jesus’ teachings and actions. So clearly, he didn’t call them because of their intelligence or leadership skills.
A Bible scholar might say, ‘They represent the 12 tribes of Israel, symbolising the fulfilment of God’s promises.’ That’s correct. But does that mean Jesus could have simply chosen any 12 people off the street? Why did he choose these 12 people?
We might never know why, but I am grateful Jesus recruited this group because it set the pattern for the future of the church. Having a group of disciples means…
We are never alone. The church is not a collection of separate individuals. We are Christ’s community.
Diversity is important. A church where everyone looks, thinks, talks and acts the same does not reflect the group that Jesus surrounded himself with.
Each one of us is important to sharing God’s love. Even if we aren’t trained or qualified, we have been invited to be part of God’s team.
Right now, our church community might be asking, ‘Why are we getting another priest at the Anglican Church in Gent?’
First, because the Belgian government noticed that our church has grown and asked if we would like a 2nd priest’s stipend. (We said, ‘yes, please!’)
But don’t we already have a Chaplain, plus Pastor Jo Jan? Yes. We also have 3 people who hope to be trained as Licensed Lay Ministers (also known as a Reader).
Is that too many people?
If God’s Kingdom was done, finished, and there was no more ministry to be done, then, I suppose that would be true. But since our world does not yet reflect God’s Kingdom of Peace & Justice, there is clearly still more work to do. Besides, just like Jesus’ disciples…
We should never do our ministry alone. We are part of a community, a family, a team.
We need diversity. To become a church for ALL of God’s people, we need to reflect ALL God’s people.
We are ALL needed to share God’s love… not just the clergy, not just the people wearing robes and leading worship. ALL of us are needed for Christ’s ministry in Belgium right now.
Some people have asked, ‘If we’re getting a new priest does that mean that Stephen and Jo Jan are leaving?’ Heck no! At least, I pray every day that God will let me continue to be the Chaplain in Ghent for many, many, many, many years to come! Every priest and Reader have their own gifts for ministry and God needs all of our gifts to help grow the Kingdom.
I also want to challenge us to think beyond our church. As Jesus’ followers, our ministry is not meant to take place inside only one building. We are called to serve THE WHOLE WORLD, which God made and loves. That means that sometimes, we need to help in other parts of God’s Garden. Just like when Jesus sent out the disciples to heal and proclaim the Good News. And if we are doing a good job as His disciples, we will not only grow own church, we will help other churches and denominations to grow, wherever they might be. When our ‘cup’ overflows with God’s blessings, we don’t keep it for ourselves. We pour out those blessings for others.
Finally, we must remember that we are one Body… the Body of Christ. United. Undivided. Diverse. Different. Each with our own gifts, talents and skills. No part of the Body is superior to all the others. Only together, can this Body live and thrive, move and dance, and jump for joy!
Which is why I am so pleased to welcome Reverend Oluwakayode Sopeju to our Ministry Team. In many ways, Revd Oluwakayode simply represents what the Holy Spirit has already been doing in our community for some time… calling people to serve God in Christ’s name. I hope and pray that his ministry equips, empowers and enables all of us to be better disciples.
Change can be hard. Even when it is a positive change because every change involves some kind of loss. When Jesus called the first disciples on the seashore, they dropped their nets, and lost their jobs as fishermen to take on a new job fishing for people. I hope we can all agree that they made the right decision?!?!?! Likewise, I believe that the changes in our church will challenge us, but that we will accept Jesus’ invitation and follow him into the unknown future… together!
Canon Stephen Murray