Sydney’s wealthier parishes are in distress. Despite record numbers of graduates from Moore College, they can’t get ministers.
“Every time I speak to a young minister, they say that the rich are just too hard to reach and that I need to find someone with a lot more faith” a church-goer from a fashionable postcode told the pewsitter. “They mumble something about an eye of a needle and slink off to somewhere with a soup kitchen”.
He uses the line that Jesus spent a lot of time on the shores or the Sea of Galilee. But it falls on deaf ears. There is a real stigma about anywhere close to the beach. One rich area of Sydney finds it so hard to get ministers it is known as “the valley of death”. In SC each month the list of parish vacancies shows the areas where the Archbishop is going to have to find a minister: normally white, highly educated – just too worldly for gospel ministry. These places are not for the faint hearted.
Meanwhile working with Muslims, aboriginals, those with special needs, and prisoners is especially popular. This pewsitter wonders if the popularity of these ministries comes from an over literal approach to the Bible. Why should our ministers concentrate on the sort of people that Jesus spent most of his time with? It’s a mistake to take these details of the gospels to heart. We should pay more attention to a neglected figure like Paul, an example of an educated minister.
There is a real prejudice against lawyers. You hardly see them at church or synod where a few would be useful. It’s that stuff about scribes and Pharisees I guess.
“Charles Simeon is a great example, a founder of the evangelical movement,” says one desperate parish nominator. “He did not just concentrate on visiting the poor and obscure villages. He also preached to the University as well. I wish we could get someone to do that, I am sure if someone tried we could plant a small church near one of the campuses”.
It’s an unpopular point of view to think that the private schools and university students deserve a special effort. Here’s an idea: why don’t we start a youth ministry especially targeting the private schools? Too radical you say. But I am a dreamer.
Chaplaincy is especially over subscribed. It has the advantage of being less well paid. “And you never get embarrassed by Anglicare offering to pay school fees for your kids,” one chaplain told the pewsitter. “They don’t force you to live in a big house for free. But your always worried about your job: there’s a lot of new graduates trying to get in.”
Some say a trendy multiculturalism is responsible for churches in the shadow of a mosque being so popular. It’s true the tug of worldly values may sometimes be at play here. But the pewsitter thinks this is too harsh on our ministers. It is never just the ministers: perhaps the guys from private schools who will do better in these parishes get weeded out in the selection process. Or maybe we need to form teams (including lay people) to take on those hard to reach places.
Do we have a heart for the rich and well educated? Just maybe we should.