This question has been my companion over recent months and years, not least because Reader Ministry was never in my vocabulary growing up, neither was it on my horizon as an adult moving through the various faith stages of growth prior to my latest challenge - no doubt a hangover from my Protestant background - Cassock, Surplice and Scarf!
Decisions we are faced with though, rarely stand in isolation; how often they follow God’s nudges woven into the canvas of our lives, as the Psalmist says - from the womb throughout the whole process of transformation, even before we were overtly seeking God. Jamieson’s analogy of the Chrysalis reflects perfectly my own journey to this point, as he considers the hidden transformation of a caterpillar to butterfly including its periods of disturbance, dissatisfaction, disillusionment, disorientation and disorder.
Jamieson writes that before becoming a butterfly, a caterpillar sheds its skin and hangs upside down on a leaf of the plant it has lived on for its whole life; this period of metamorphosis can be tricky, messy, a time of darkness, stillness and silence as changes occur under its skin before splitting open to reveal the Chrysalis. This phase also brings both crisis and a sign of new life, - it’s a new and unfamiliar space for simultaneously letting go and letting come, a temporary time of transition. Whilst the Chrysalis contains the caterpillar’s original DNA but little else, what emerges is inexplicable, fragile and born out of a period of profound grace; it seems God’s work can’t be man-handled by human hands and short cuts, without risking clipping the wings of a butterfly at birth and first flight, whether to Reader Licencing or something else.
Yet, being licensed for Reader Ministry on the 3rd October is not really about me and a Cassock! It’s about the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ who calls each of us to a make a unique and personal response to follow him by wholehearted faithful discipleship to “live in the grace of Christ” (Gal. 1:6) – it’s less about what we each do, or our reputation or even the church, it isn’t always comfortable and it definitely takes courage. It’s costly, it’s risky, it can’t be faked, whilst the encounter with grace eventually leads to freedom of flight.
As I prepare to ‘emerge’, on many levels, for the licensing service on October 3rd, I’m struck by these words: “I wonder where the responsible people are who will intentionally enter the public square for God with their stories. Then I realize anew that I am one. As are you. Our theology matters, and now is the time to share it.” (S. Codone). Now, during this unprecedented time of change in both society and church……, us.
So to the Cassock! It is quite old, and has been lovingly ‘passed on’ to me by a retiring Reader for which I’m very grateful, mostly because it reminds me that this is not about me and that I follow in the footsteps of others as part of a whole community of disciples. The surplice is new, the Reader scarf is blue, and I’m reckoning on borrowing your prayers…………..
Debbie Mitchell, Reader in Training
Jamieson A: “Chrysalis – The hidden transformation in the journey of faith”. Publisher – Paternoster.
A collection of thoughts and reflections from the people of All Saints.