Mary Judkins on the vocation of the Holy Common People of God

It was somewhat confusing to be addressed by the Bishop of St Albans during the debate on `A Learning Church for a Learning Age’ at the recent York General Synod sessions as `Dr’ Judkins! Those who know me will realise that that title refers to my husband, Medical Director of the Regional Burn Centre at Pinderfields Hospital, Wakefield, Yorkshire.

So who am I?

As I said in the opening to my speech, proposing an amendment, I am Mary Judkins, with a BA in Theology and an MA in Education! So what? As they say, “What has that to do with the price of fish?”

Part of the amendment was to `affirm the significance of the discipleship of lay people and clergy in daily life and occupation and encourage dioceses and parishes to implement the proposals outlined in GS Misc 546.

I spoke in the debate on Lifelong Learning for three reasons:

1. I believe that the role of the laity has to be affirmed in today’s church.

2. I believe that the role of the clergy has to be affirmed in today’s church.

3. I think that many churches need more teaching on lay and clergy discipleship before embarking on the Investors in People project.

The usual thinking is that one is either called to be ordained, or one is not, as if the lack of a call to ordination is simply a negative. No way! I believe I am called positively to be a lay person. I am not called to be ordained, or even to be the first woman bishop! (I hear many sighs of relief at this point!!) What is my calling as a lay person about?

I was only seven when I became a Christian. As the daughter of a Baptist Minister I was used to going to church. We went twice on Sundays, and to Sunday School. As well as playing Cowboys and Indians and Schools my brother and I played at churches. The pulpit was the piano stool. We were good at imaginative baptisms by immersion and the communion service! Even our babysitters had to join in! But I did not become an ordained minister.

I knew even then that I was called to serve God where I was. The magnet on my fridge says it as `Bloom where you are planted’. St Paul wrote that he was `content in whatever state’ he found himself in (Philemon 4.11). This calling is not firstly to `do’, a job or a position, but to `be’, to be disciples. It applies to everything God calls us to: in work, in leisure, in marriage, in singleness, in the home, outside the home. Our whole life should be a response to God’s calling.

Our call, then, is to please Him in the way we live, to enjoy the freedom and peace God gives, and to take up the privilege of Christian discipleship. We all have different gifts to use in the mission of the church as God’s servants. Only when this is understood can we move on to play our part in ministry.

Discipleship is for everyone, the laos, the whole people of God. The clergy and laity must learn and work together to `build up the body of Christ’ (Ephesians 4.12). How is this to be done?

Church leaders, especially those who are ordained as clergy, have the responsibility of enabling others to realise their full potential as called to the service of God. We need reminding that all Christians are called through baptism to membership of the Body of Christ. This requires not just a personal acceptance of God’s love but of His calling, whether as ordained or as a lay person, to a lifetime of learning and discipleship, to proclaim afresh the gospel to each generation. The challenge for us is to be willing to serve under the authority of God and of those ordained by God to be clergy and pastors. This is not always a fashionable position, but it is a positive calling as much as that to the ordained ministry. So we need to pray together with the hymn-writer:

“All to Jesus I surrender,
All to Him I freely give;
I will ever love and trust Him,
In His presence daily live.
All to Thee, my blessed Saviour,
I surrender all.”

Mary Judkins is a member of the General Synod representing the Missionary Diocese of Wakefield.