With just a few weeks to go until embarking on his next adventure, former Royal Marine Commando, Rev. Justin Montague, brings us our latest blog post.
‘Royal Marines to your duties, quick march!'
These powerful final words of the Commandant draw a conclusion to the Pass Out Parade of a Royal Marine Recruit, commissioning them to march off the parade square and out of Commando Training Centre to face new challenges across the world, wearing the hard-earned Green Beret. They also mark the end of the pivotal transition from being a trainee to becoming a fully-fledged Royal Marine Commando. It is an occasion that stays vivid in my memory, those authoritative words reminding me of the high responsibility to which I was called.
On Wednesday a friend and ministerial colleague was inaugurated as Priest-in-Charge of several mid-Devon rural Parishes, during a special worship service at one of the churches he is to oversee. During the service the newly installed Priest or Vicar declares their commitment and calling to the parishes, making oaths to give assurance of their beliefs and conduct as a minister in the Church of England. The minister is prayed for and commissioned by the Bishop, formally authorizing their responsibility as ‘cure of souls’ (care of souls) of the parishes.
I too like my friend will be commissioned by the Bishop of Crediton in few months, licensed as Priest-in-Charge of the Parishes of Seaton and Beer. The liturgy of the service, the oaths and declarations I will personally make, a powerful reminder what has gone before and of the high calling and responsibility, and whole-life dedication to God and the ministry of His church ahead of me. But like marching from Commando Training Centre surrounded by fellow Marines in a troop, the new Priest-in-charge is not called to fly solo either, though sometimes it can perhaps feel a lonely place. The licensing service reminds all present in that act of worship that both priest and people come together to commit themselves to a shared vision and partnership in mission, ministry and worship in the parish and that all are called to rededicate their lives to God who enables us by his Spirit to serve him with hearts of gratitude through his love for us in Jesus Christ.
In many ways the service represents a formal presentation of the Priest to both the church and wider community. For my friend last Wednesday his inauguration took place on the Festival of Candlemas, a day in the church calendar commemorating the presentation of our Lord Jesus Christ 40-days after His birth, which made this an extra special occasion. To signify this, he was presented with a candle as a sign of his calling to take forward Christ’s light in the world, to be a person of God’s truth shining out in the community he has been called to serve and call the church to do the same.
As Christians we are each called to be people of light, to bring the light of Christ and be a light for Christ into the dark places of the world. To be a light of hope to those who have lost hope, to reflect the light of Christ’s love to the unloved. To be a light of forgiveness, of unity and of community where there is unforgiveness, disunity and division. To be a light of radical generosity, of welcome and of hospitality, where there is selfishness, hostility and discomfort. And as the deep dark places within our own selves are transformed by the light of God’s healing grace through the ministering power of the Holy Spirit, to go out and reflect that grace-filled light to friend, neighbour or stranger and whosoever we meet.
I believe the key to sustained ministry, the key to the Christian walk with Christ, and the key to keeping Christ’s light burning brightly in us and from us, is prayer. Prayer is our spiritual oxygen, prayer is the tinder for our spiritual flames, prayer opens up the deep places within us to God’s grace and where we abide in Christ and live our lives close to God.
If I were to leave a final charge for my beloved church family at St George and St Paul’s, it would be to go. ‘be prayerful, spirit-fused, kingdom witnessing people!’
May God bless you richly with kingdom opportunities ahead.
Grace and peace, Justin
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