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Of writing, deadlines and priesthood

Alistair Cooke, that doyen of reflective broadcasting, died on Tuesday (30.3.04).  Four weeks ago, at 95, he decided to end Letter from America after nearly missing a deadline.  I don't know whether Cooke, son of a Methodist lay preacher, was a man of faith. But I'm glad he saw his calling as that of a wordsmith seeking to improve Anglo-American understanding, and that he drew on the Christian tradition to improve his craft.  In a 1999 interview with the BBC's Nick Clarke, Alistair Cooke said “John Donne is the perfect example of the man who said in his poetry the subtlest things in words of one syllable.  That is my aim - to be able to write and talk like Saint Luke.”

I hope it does not presage my demise, but this will be the last eReflection until the autumn - because increasingly I am missing my deadlines!  The builders started today and the call for the next months is to plan, purchase, renovate and plumb.  Oh, and construct a marketing campaign for Connected Community Learning (CCL) courses starting September.

Why?  Because I'm passionate about the priesthood of all believers (1 Peter 2:4-10), every Christian ministering God's grace, mercy, love and truth wherever they may find themselves, 24/7.  But the extent to which any of our church traditions or individual churches equip (see Ephesians 4:11-16) these laos ministers varies greatly.  CCL and this eReflection are tiny external contributions, wherever possible starting with life contexts, issues or dilemmas and doing some Christian thinking, modelling processes as much as proposing conclusions.

Meanwhile, as Easter approaches, let's ponder the ‘theory’ through the words of Vincent Donovan:

“In that one supreme moment in his life when Jesus did offer sacrifice once and for all, he gathered into himself the whole meaning of priesthood and sacrifice, and obliterated forever the need of a priestly caste. The result of that action, … was, for the first time in the history of religion, to enable an entire people to be priest.  Is this not one of the biggest differences between Christianity and all other religions on the face of the earth?”

and:

“The ‘priesthood of all believers’ has often been used as an empty slogan by Catholics and Protestants alike.  Catholics do not want to apply the priesthood to all believers, to the laos, the people of God, the laity.  Protestants often use the phrase in a negative way.  By stressing the second part of the phrase, they in fact deny the first part, or at least put a brake on the deepest sacramental, sacrificial and incarnational meaning of the priesthood of Jesus Christ.  If only the Catholic meaning of priesthood could come to live with the Protestant meaning of faithful in the church, we might arrive at a new understanding of the power and glory of Christianity.” (Christianity Rediscovered, SCM Classics, Chapter 8)

Amen to Cooke, amen to Donovan.  See you in September.

Yours in Christ

Peter Nicholls

“In that one supreme moment in his life when Jesus did offer sacrifice once and for all, he gathered into himself the whole meaning of priesthood and sacrifice, and obliterated forever the need of a priestly caste. The result of that action, … was, for the first time in the history of religion, to enable an entire people to be priest.”

Vincent Donovan, Christianity Rediscovered

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