I can hear the questions in people’s heads, simply because they’ve been in mine first. Anyone who knows me, and something of my journey will no doubt be wondering if I’ve lost the plot altogether in the light of my recent step of engaging with the Order of Saint Leonard. This week, I’ve had it all: ‘have you joined a cult?’ ‘are you being rebellious?’ ‘are you compromising?’ ‘are you seeking position?’ ‘did you have to roll up your trouser leg and bare your chest?’ ‘are you really into those costumes?’ ‘and what about that Free Methodist, Pentecostal, Evangelical Anglican Bishop bloke…what’s he all about?’
Its as simple as this: I gave my life to the Lord lock stock and barrel when I signed a covenant to be a Salvation Army officer. That is not something I am going to go back on, regardless of my relationship with The Salvation Army. Thing is, you don’t really keep covenant in isolation…for me its about community. I wanted to find a group of people who are committed to keeping a covenant agreement in the context of community and I wanted to find a group of people who see beyond the sectarianism of denominational allegiance.
My life is not my own, it hasn’t been for a long time. I am God’s to do as he wishes and I have had 3 years or more of wrestling with finding a long term home for my strong call to a monastic brother/sisterhood who also take seriously the call to ministry and the consecrated life submitted to service of God’s people.
My engagement with the OSL is about one thing: servanthood. It is about demotion. Downward mobility. Basin and towel. Its about getting on your face before God and laying it all down to his submission once again. Without the yoke of consecration to the purposes of God, it becomes all about me, ‘my ministry’, and all that jazz. ‘Ordination’ for me isn’t about position, power and authority, its about submission, servanthood and self-denial.
As I begin this Lent, I realise that I’ve now had 3.5 years of ‘desert’ experience with all the associated temptations. I reject power, I reject the CEO pastor mode, I reject position, I reject the view of ministry as holier-than-thou and the idea of ministers being a cut above. I chose the way of a servant. I chose to be yoked to Christ. I chose to live a life covenanted to God and to submit to a vision bigger than mine and beyond my agenda.
I’m grateful to the folks at OSL for being a willing body of people happy to allow me to express my calling to the whole church in relationship with them in the long term, a relationship which I hope will continue through the various stages, places and postings in the ministry God calls me to. And I didn’t even have to wear a frock…
Last word to Dietrich Bonnhoeffer:
‘…the restoration of the church will surely come only from a new type of monasticism which has nothing in common with the old but a complete lack of compromise in a life lived in accordance with the Sermon on the Mount in the discipleship of Christ. I think it is time to gather people together to do this…’