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Rector’s Letter July 2017

Receive the Holy Ghost for the Office and Work of a Priest in the Church of God, now committed unto thee by the imposition of our hands. Whose sins thou dost forgive, they are forgiven; and whose sins thou dost retain, they are retained.

And be thou a faithful Dispenser of the Word of God, and of his holy Sacraments; In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

Awe inspiring words indeed, proclaimed by the late Bishop Victor Whitsey as he ordained me to the priesthood in Chester Cathedral on 27th June 1977 using the ordination service from the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. Looking at them you might be surprised at what they say about the nature of the ministerial priesthood of the Church of God. The reference to being a dispenser of the Word of God and of his Holy Sacraments you might expect – but the emphasis on the Priest’s role in declaring God’s forgiveness of sins (and his/her power to withhold that forgiveness if necessary) might indeed be unexpected to the average Anglican!

In 2017, 40 years later, you would be unlikely to hear this particular form of words at an ordination – a 21st century version of the service would probably be in use. At the end of this letter you will find the ordination prayer most often used in the Church in Wales today. You will see that it is very different indeed, and whilst it certainly includes the things mentioned in the 1662 service, it puts them into a much wider context.

However as I celebrate my 40th anniversary of ordination to the priesthood the words said as Bishop Whitsey placed his hands on my head remind me of things that lie at the heart of the ministry to which God called me. I am, above all, to preach God’s Word, celebrate His Sacraments, and offer God’s forgiveness to His people.

Why keep an anniversary of ordination? The answer is that we do it for much the same reasons that a married couple will want to celebrate their wedding anniversary. They will give thanks for the blessings they have received in their marriage, to celebrate the institution of marriage itself, and perhaps to renew their commitment to each other.

In the same way a Priest, at an anniversary of ordination will want to give thanks for the privilege of being called by God to serve in the Sacred Ministry of the Church: of being able to minister to and work alongside many wonderful people and to share important moments, joyful and sad, in their lives; to be able to preside at the Eucharist and the other sacraments; to preach and to teach, to counsel and to lead. But as well as the personal experience, priests will want to give thanks for Christ’s gift of ministerial priesthood to his church – for the institution of priesthood itself.

Today, rightly, the Church celebrates the vocation and ministry of all God’s people not just that of the clergy. Furthermore, in addition to the ordained ministry, there are now a variety of lay ministries in our Church such as Readers, Worship Leaders, Pastoral Assistants, Evangelists etc. But whilst recognizing the great contribution these can make, we must never forget how important the threefold ordained ministry of Bishop, Priest and Deacon are – these are orders of ministry which have come down to us from the ancient church, and as a Catholic Anglican I believe that they are given by God as an essential element in the life of His Church.

So on Saturday July 1st at 12 noon I will celebrate my 40th Anniversary of Ordination as Priest (and my 41st as Deacon) with a special Eucharist in Holy Trinity Church. I do hope that many of you will be able to come and give thanks with me – not just for my ministry but more importantly for the Priesthood itself – one of God’s gifts to his Church.

It has indeed been a great privilege and joy to exercise this ministry (in five parishes) – although I have also found it hard at times, it hasn’t all been plain sailing by any means. And of course, like every priest I am all too aware of my own shortcomings and failures to live up to the call of Christ and to serve His people. As I prepare to retire later this year (on the 31st October) I look forward to another stage in my priestly ministry, for a priest is always a priest and hopefully I will be able to exercise this ministry in new ways. You will look forward to the ministry of a new priest who hopefully will both build on what I have been able to do and bring new insights and talents to strengthen and deepen the life of the church in Llandudno.

Fr.John

The Ordination prayer in the Church in Wales Alternative Liturgy for the Ordination of Priests.

The bishop stretches out his or her hands towards the candidates and says:

Praise God who made heaven and earth,

Who keeps his promise for ever.

Lord our God, we give you thanks and praise,
because in your great love, you have formed throughout the world
a holy people for your own possession,
a royal priesthood, a universal Church.

We give you thanks and praise
for calling your people in every age to witness to your saving love
and to proclaim the good news of your kingdom.

And now we give you thanks that you have called these your servants
to share in the sacred ministry of Christ,
the Apostle and High Priest of our faith and the Shepherd of our souls.

The bishop and the priests lay their hands on the head of each candidate.

The bishop says:

Send your Holy Spirit upon your servant [N],
for the office and work of a priest in your Church.

When all have received the laying on of hands, the bishop continues:

Loving God, you have called these your servants;
Give them love, wisdom and understanding,
that they may carry out this ministry
to which they have been ordained.
May they live and proclaim the gospel of salvation
and bring healing to the sick.
May they faithfully celebrate the sacraments of our redemption
and absolve and bless in your name.
Give them patience and hope, gentleness and perseverance
to work with all your people,
that the world may come to know your glory and your love;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen

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