The First Order of Ministry
Beloved in Christ,
The catechism at the back of the Book of Common Prayer reminds us that "the ministers of the Church are lay persons, bishops, priests, and deacons" (pg 855). It is no accident that lay persons are listed as the first order of ministry. Everyone who is baptized into Christ's body is called "to represent Christ and his Church; to bear witness to him wherever they may be; [. . .] to carry on Christ's work of reconciliation in the world; and to take their place in the life, worship, and governance of the Church." The primary call to ministry for all of us is the one given to us at baptism, and ordination as a deacon, priest, or bishop is simply a matter of being marked for a particular ministry within the larger order of the church.
For large parts of our history, the church lost sight of this part of our theology, de-emphasized the ministry of the laity, and paid woefully inadequate attention to forming and equipping this foundational order. Nevertheless, many of our faith communities have been led primarily by lay persons for large parts of their history. As we continue to navigate the changing landscape before us, it will be important to prioritize forming and equipping all the baptized for their ministry of serving, witnessing, and following the way of Jesus in the world. I hope to make this central to the work of my ministry as bishop.
A small but important step in this work that I am really excited to share with you is that we have been selected to be part of an initial cohort of six dioceses to pilot a lay preaching training program, which is being developed by the Episcopal Preaching Foundation.Through this program, a small group of leaders from our diocese will be trained to offer lay preaching training for others around Minnesota. I'm particularly grateful to Canon Karen Olson, an extraordinary lay minister, who helped secure our place in this initial cohort. We'll be sharing more in the weeks to come as we have more details about how the program will work.
Navigating the next season in our life together will require all of us, and it will require all of us to work closely with one another. The four orders of ministry are interdependent, belong to each other, and the church can only be both faithful and vital when they are working in concert with one another. What a gift we have in each other, and what a gift it is for us in our various roles and with our various talents to be called to raise a beautiful chorus of love in the world.
Grace and Peace,
The Right Reverend Craig Loya
Episcopal Church in MN