When I became a Christian and an Episcopalian at age 27, I really wanted to be a part of the church. The obvious place to start was the Sunday worship services because that was the most visible part of “church.” So I became an adult acolyte at the service where all of the acolytes, and all of the worshippers, were adults.
I was crucifer for one Sunday. They wouldn’t let me do it again because they noticed that everybody in the aisle seats got out of the way when I approached with the cross, because it looked like I was going to tip it over on them. That cross was heavy, and I just couldn’t balance it!
I volunteered to make meals for the youth in the kitchen, but after I made only eight tacos for twenty youth, they never asked me again to cook for them.
Then I tried teaching the junior high class in Sunday School. My co-teacher was Brian Prior, a 16-year-old young man who was a school counselor and everybody knew he was going to be a bishop someday (he is now bishop of Minnesota). In my first class, I taught the seventh and eighth graders the Big Bang Theory of the origin of the universe. Brian stopped coming, having given up on me.
Finally I took a quiz called “What is Your Spiritual Gift?” You may have taken this kind of quiz before, to identify what ministries fit you best, whether it’s helping, encouraging, leading, doing, and so on. I got a 0 (that’s a “zero”) in “Leadership.” And that’s when I found out that if I were ordained, I would want to be a deacon and NOT a priest. (And how did that turn out, Joanna, huh?)
But it turns out that the most important ministry is not the ordained one, but the baptismal ministry—the ministry that we all promise to undertake when we make our baptismal vows (“Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ?” “I will, with God’s help.”)
When we are baptized, we are touched, or soaked, in the waters of baptism and marked as Christ’s own forever. As St. Paul put it, in our baptism we die and rise with Christ, in our own resurrection. And when we make those vows, we promise to follow Christ “by word and example” in serving the community and world. And each time we renew our baptismal vows, we come out given new life, renewed in our own ministry, the baptismal ministry which belongs to all of us.
As people of new life, then, we are then called to be diving instructors, lifeguards, and towel attendants at the baptism of a world. We can also be Altar Guild members, ushers, Sunday School teachers, acolytes, Termites, lay Eucharistic ministers, and lectors at the eternal baptism of St. Barnabas Church.
Because what that fun little “Spiritual Gifts” quiz also taught me is that there are a myriad of ministries at a church, so there is probably a fit for everybody. A parish church is truly a whole community in itself, and in that community, there are many varied opportunities to hold up the church. Furthermore, St. Barnabas is not just any community; in its own words, St. Barnabas is a community of encouragement. That means that when you come here, you belong here. And when you belong here, there is a place for you. And when you do find that place, you will be encouraged here. Even if you tip over the cross, or fail to count how many youth you need to cook for, or don’t have a clue how to teach Sunday School, there is still a place, and a need, for you. And there will be people to cheer you on.
So please consider offering your presence and your help at St. Barnabas. We need you! As we start returning to pre-pandemic normal, we need your help! I promise that even if you drop the cross, burn the tacos, and teach the Big Bang Theory of the universe to seventh graders, we will still give you lots of encouragement to find your fit in ministry and have fun doing it!
I would love to hear your reactions and thoughts! Please respond at email@example.com and let’s have a conversation!