RECOGNITION OF MINISTRY
In any given presbytery or regional gathering of the church, there are several who exercise their call in non-congregational settings. Some exercise their ministry in the familiar structures of chaplaincy or a counseling ministry. Others work in social service agencies that minister to the poor or needy in our society. Still others find their calling in law, medicine, business, etc. Yet each understand themselves as practicing their calling.
This will be explored in the framework of the Presbyterian structure but it can easily be adapted to other denominations. The main thesis is that as a corporate church, we need to honor and affirm these servants of God as well. As we do so, we strengthen the whole body.
CONTACTING EXTRA-CONGREGATIONAL CLERGY
Once you have identified a variety of extra-congregational ministries within your body, you can both contact them and invite them to a celebration of their practice of ministry at a designated meeting of the body. Acknowledge in your communication that you affirm that their ministry strengthens the overall witness of the Body of Christ, Invite them to send a brief paragraph describing how they view the way their ordained ministry finds its expression in their particular profession. Tell them that the presbytery wishes to compile a booklet of the variety of gifts within this part of the Body of Christ to be shared as it gathers to celebrate the equipping of the saints “for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ.
CELEBRATING THE LARGER CHURCH
As part of the celebration, you can insert the names and the particular expressions of ministry in the following liturgy. Feel free to adapt it for your particular circumstance.
A Litany Celebrating
the call to Specialized Ministry
Psalm 111 (Adapted)
Leader “Praise the Lord! (we) will give thanks to the Lord with (our) whole heart, in the company of the upright, in the congregation.”
People: We recognize John, Ellen, Byron, and Beth who have felt the call to develop their gift of teaching that extends beyond their local congregation and blesses the community around them
Leader “Great are the works of the Lord, studied by all who delight in them.”
People: We celebrate the creative ministries of Joan, Philip, Floyd, Bob, and Ellen who have advocated for justice in ways that have prodded our conscience and moved us to a deeper understanding of the justice of God.
Leader “Full of honor and majesty is God’s work, and God’s righteousness endures forever.”
People: We lift up Susan’s work in counseling and support groups and Beth’s work with prison ministries. We honor Arthur’s work with Hospice and Florence and Henry’s ministry on behalf of returned veterans.
Leader “God has gained renown by God’s wonderful deeds; the Lord is gracious and merciful.”
People: Today we praise the call that has extended the ministries of Brenda, Russ, Carlton, and Rick on behalf of feeding ministries in their communities.
Leader (God) provides food for those who fear him; God is ever mindful of God’s covenant.”
People: We commend the ministries of Evan, Carol, and Earnest who have worked to strengthen the bonds of their communities and bring people together across diverse boundaries.
Leader “God has shown his people the power of God’s works, in giving them the heritage of the nations. The works of God’s hands are faithful and just; all his precepts are trustworthy. They are established forever and ever, to be performed with faithfulness and uprightness.”
People: We recognize with appreciation the work of Phyllis, Brendan, Mike, and Errol for their efforts to bring God’s presence in the professions within our communities.
Leader Each of those named and so many who are yet to be named have responded to the call of God in special ways that have strengthened the ministry of this presbytery. We give thanks to God for the working of your Spirit in their lives and in ours.
People: “(God) sent redemption to God’s people; God has commanded his covenant forever. Holy and awesome is God’s name. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever.”
Obviously, the fictional ministries of the people mentioned in the litany along with their particular ministries needs to be replaced with the real efforts that have been identified.