Priesthood is forever and does not cease when a priest cannot carry out that priestly ministry.
Today our NHL (Nursing Home Lions) visited the Banwell Gardens Nursing Home to Celebrate Mass with the residents. One of the people there is The Reverend Bill Mills. Bill is a priest of this diocese who served in this parish as an interim once if not twice. I was moved as I celebrated the Eucharist and looked into his eyes. Bill suffers from dementia and is not always fully aware of what is happening. Today as we prayed it was clear to me that he was in the moment. I could hardly take my eyes away from his. For a moment, his blue eyes were a real window into his soul.
Priesthood is forever. Although Father Bill is no longer able to do many things, he continues to be a priest. As we celebrated the Lord’s Supper today Bill was very much priest and he was very much aware of what was happening. It was one of those special moments where I knew that there was a great sense of the holy.
In Priestly Ordination the candidates vow "to labour together with all their fellow servants." I am saddened at times that we do not take that more seriously as priest of the church. Today I looked into the eyes of a fellow servant. In those eyes I saw the Great Servant. I saw the Suffering Servant. I saw the love of many years of ministry. I saw Jesus. I saw a man who has emptied himself for others and now sits in a place of solitude and confusion. I hope that we take time to look after each other. I pray that we keep Father Bill Mills in our prayers. I pray that we remember that we are companions on a journey. This work of labouring for Christ is something we have vowed to do together – there is no room for a lone ranger on a mission that is community driven. As Clergy we should be at the forefront of leading our communities by showing our ability to labour together.
Tonight saw our Deanery Council meet. This gathering was another reminder today of our need to labour together. This body has been anything but effective for a long time. As Regional Dean a few years ago I was frustrated often at the lack of enthusiasm in that group and could not see change happen the way I would have liked. The Reverend Sue Paulton is the new Regional Dean and tonight chaired her first Deanery Council and she is clearly going o do an excellent job. Sue loves the church and she loves God. It is evidenced in her concern that, tonight go well. We labour shoulder to shoulder with Sue our fellow servant. This is true of course, of not just the ordained but of all of the baptized. We are all called to work together for the advancement of gospel message. Deanery Council is in need of great change and renewal. Let us all work with our Regional Dean to make it more effective.
We also had the last meeting of this council with our present Archdeacon Bill Gray. Bill has accepted the position of Rector at All Saints in Peterborough. Again, we labour together in the cause of advancing the love of the Gospel of Jesus and I wish Bill and his family the best in the transition and thank him for his time as Archdeacon in the deanery of Essex.
Today was a good chance than to be reminded that ministry is a Team Sport. We may all have to struggle through changes in the rules from time to time. Our team captain sometimes changes. And as we heard tonight sometimes there is trade at the deadline that sees a player change conferences. And there are always the Hall of Famers who have retired and who have only past games to look back at – but that does not alter the fact that they have played and contributed and in many cases, changed the game forever. Let’s ensure that whatever status we have on the team, we labour together to score our ultimate goal – Love!