Parish Priest's Annual Report 2002-2003
The Revd Nigel Tuffnell bids use all a fond farewell
2003 is going to be a year of change. I am going to Kegworth to become a team rector of group of rural parishes in north Leicestershire. From the perspective of myself I am sad to be leaving you. I am happy here and feel very much part of this little bit of Norfolk. So it will be a wrench to leave. I know that many of you have told me that you are sad to see me go. So thank you to all of you who have worked with me for Christ here in Northwold, Stoke Ferry, Whittington or Wretton; in ours schools, church and village communities.
Excitement and the challenge of new possibilities lay ahead for me but what of here? Well saying that there are "challenges" ahead can just be semantics for watch out, there are problems coming. There will be problems during the interregnum that result from not having your own priest. This is partly a problem that the Church of England has bequeathed to all its parishes. This is the problem of clergy dominance of church life and ministry that has produced a situation where the priest is seen as the church, the one who ministers and the keen support the priest in his ministry. The problem is exemplified by the phrase, "Going into the Church;" used for someone about to be ordained. It is an unhealthy situation for the Church and one to which the Church of England as a whole is steadily waking up. I am not the Church; we are the Church.
The challenging but hopefully exciting future that awaits all of us is to rediscover the fact that we are a priesthood of all believers. That all of us are called to be ambassador's for Christ. I, as an ordained minister, have offered leadership, encouragement and theological expertise which will now be provided by other ministers. Less access to such a resource is not ideal but it should not be crippling. Each of you, as a consequence of your baptism, have God's Holy Spirit living within you. God has provided all that each of us need.
Another illustration. The ministerial model that has dominated the Church of England is that of ministers as Shepherds of the flock. When I searched my Bible, I could only find 23 references to shepherds in the New Testament. Most refer exclusively to Jesus as the Good Shepherd and only 3 Acts 20:28, 1 Peter 5:2 and Jude 12 refer to ministers as shepherds. Even then the model is of shared responsibility cf. Acts 20. However the New Testament uses the phrases "one another" or "together" in reference to ministry more times that I could count. The message is clear, Christian ministry is something that all Christians share. I echo St. Paul's words, "I myself am convinced, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, complete in knowledge and competent to instruct one another." (Romans 15:14) The truth that the ministry of the Church is something we share has been a foundation of my ministry here. The awareness of this truth has been something that I have been encouraging in these congregations since I arrived here. I am pleased to say that I now see so many people who are beginning, consciously or unconsciously, to act on this truth.
There is still a long way to go for our church and for each of us. This is a huge change in the way we see ourselves as Christians and in the way we understand our place within the life of the Church. There is no denying that there will be problems ahead. But we have started on the right road and we have the right Guide in the Holy Spirit. It therefore isn't just a semantic game for me to describe our future as exciting and challenging. That is merely an accurate description of the future that God offers to each of us. "I am convinced, that you yourselves are full of goodness, complete in knowledge and competent to minister here."
Thank you, it has been a pleasure to minister with you here and I wish you every blessing for the future.
Revd Nigel Tuffnell