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Explorations: Some history, affirmations and the other on current practice, and a few reflections 

Heavenly Father, we thank you that by water and the Holy Spirit you have bestowed upon these your servants the forgiveness of sin, and have raised them to the new life of grace. Sustain them, O Lord, in your Holy Spirit. Give them an inquiring and discerning heart, the courage to will and to persevere, a spirit to know and to love you, and the gift of joy and wonder in all your works. 

This page will be developed over time. Items will be added as we move along. 

The focus here will be on the primary ministry of the baptized in their daily life as friends and family members, workers and citizens.  We may also point out some of the most clueless and sometimes offensive of the church's confusion about Holy Baptism--especially the inclination for parishes and dioceses to place the emphasis on ministry within the church.  

The Tractarians insisted on the real presence of Christ in bread and wine, just as they defended the reality of baptismal regeneration. The two, in fact, are inseparable, for they embody a single vision: the vision of divinity and humanity intertwined in Christ.  At the font God's life encompasses our own without our deserving or even our desiring. At the altar God enfleshed touches our flesh. This recovery of Catholic truth baffled and enraged Evangelicals. One doughty Protestant, criticizing Dr. Pusey's tract on baptism, complained that if baptism conveys new birth, why not administer communion to infants, the unconscious, or to idiots? But what he thought a clever reductio ad absurdum we know to be a reductio ad gloriam. We do not give communion to infants or the profoundly retarded because we feel sorry for them or because we are sacramental democrats. We do so because the life of God abounds in ways we cannot begin to understand, lifting up the helpless and ennobling the lowly and meek. The reality we divide with our truncated categories--deserving and undeserving, divine and human, spiritual and material--the Catholic faith holds in sacred union. -from the Anglo Catholic Vision by John Orens

"From Baptismal Font to Ministry: The Surprising Story of Laity Stirring the Church" By Dolores R. Leckey (in Catholic Identity and the Laity)  A talk delivered to the College Theological Society's annual gathering at Salve Regina University in Newport, Rhode Island, May 29, 2008; also published in Origins Vol. 38 #9, July 17, 2008. A Roman Catholic perspective that gets it right. She offered "six ways laity are stirring the church" (and added updates)

  • the hunger and thirst people have for an authentic spirituality (in our time especially in the context of consumerism)
  • a renewed understanding of marriage and family life as saving grace 
  • the changing role of women in both church and society     
  • calling attention to the co-creation with God which we undertake in our work life. Work is one of the three principal sites of lay life, the others being family and civic life  (she picked up on Robert Bellah's Discipleship and Citizenship in the Workplace and his observation about sullenness and  hyperactivity in the workplace instead of care and celebration) 
  • Formation of Christian communities. She spoke of parishes as "communities of friends befriending the world."
  •  Their willingness to share responsibility for the mission of the church

Leckey noted the work done in the Second Vatican Council "to  signal the importance of the laity's vocation in secular life." She tells of how the Laity Committee of the Bishop's Conference convened a meeting at the University of Notre Dame. The guiding questions of that inquiry were:

  • What impact, if any, does Catholic faith have on your professional life?
  • What kind of ministry is needed now and in the future to help busy lay people committed to secular vocations, be consciously Christian in the workplace.

 Toward the end of her talk she says, Every time I listen to Jack Haught, Professor Emeritus at Georgetown University (and now a Woodstock Fellow), speak on evolution, about single cells finding their way out of ponds and lakes to become . . .what?,  I have hope renewed that the most wondrous life comes from the smallest bits and pieces.

"The Ministry of the Laity as Agents of Institutional Change"Robert A. Gallagher, 1972

This was published by various groups throughout the world: for example, in the UK and the USA as an "Audenshaw Document," and in "Asia Focus" by the East Asia Christian Conference.  In "Asia Focus" it was printed on one side of the page while the other side told the story of lay formation groups in Calcutta (Kolkata) meeting to relate the Christian faith to the concrete dilemmas of life.


"Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry"  A WCC document from 1982

Response Statement by the Eastern Orthodox/Roman Catholic Consultation, USA. 1983-84


At Baptism, our lives begin their irrepressible movement toward fulfillment in Christ.  Moving through that door, toward that fulfillment, is a synergistic interplay of our faith and God’s promise, the living of which, in and of itself, is an act of faith.  For it is the recognition that we can be more, that Christ offers more for us, of, and to us and calls us to nothing less. ...Our new enlightenment must be something to behold for the priests martyred in South America, for those who were part of the Civil Rights movement, for those who advocated for better working conditions and wages in the slums, for those who throughout history have sought to stand in the path of the forces of depredation and exploitation.  Courage to stand in the face of a violent humanity and proclaim true love does not come from humanism with a godly patina.  That kind of courage flows from understanding the faith, the Church, and Christ Jesus as so decisive and upending that we can do no other. A Church that wants to transform society cannot be shy about asking its members to be transformed.  The Revd Robert Hendrickson

Yes, like this

Some examples of getting the theology and practice right, or at least near. A focus on the daily life ministry of the baptised. Also not using a term like "the ministry of the baptised" and then addressing only the in-parish ministries.

Here's a clear statement --"the first and most important avenue of ministry for any baptized Christian is their daily life and work. What they do and say in their homes, at the work, and in their leisure. In addition to that, God calls each baptized Christian to take his or her place in the life, worship, and governance of the Church.-from St. John's Church, Grand Haven, MI 

St. Mary the Virgin, NYC From Fr. Smith, "I was much more interested in having a wide-ranging conversation about what impact faith, prayer, and spirituality play in our work lives. I was especially interested in hearing lay people talk about these issues. (Once, when I worked at a parish in New Haven, Connecticut, the parish secretary asked me, “Why is it that all you priests have ‘callings’ and the rest of us just have jobs?”)"

Testimonials -from the Diocese of Chicago   There are two that stand out -- a professor of law and a health care worker. The "but" on this is that the one on becoming a mother is by a priest (yes, I know she's baptized, me too) and the other is focused on the person's work for the parish and the diocese. It's wonderful that they gave a nod to the primary ministry; it would be good to see us get the proportions right (9 out of 10 on work, family, friendships, civic life).

The approach of Christ Church, New Haven is straightforward. They have a page on Volunteering.  Volunteering to serve in and through our parishes is, of course, a form of the ministry of the baptized. Our concern here is more about emphasis, and given the lack of an appropriate emphasis, it's also about our confused thinking about baptism. Grace Church in Alexandria has a "sign up" section. St. Paul's K Street has a service & outreach pageThe title is better than "the ministry of the baptized" in that it suggests this is about serving in and through the parish. However it does begin with "At every Mass, we are dismissed and sent into the world to 'love and serve one another.' " Then goes on to only mention in and through the parish ministries.


Clueless and sometimes offensive

Parish web sites telling us that the ministry of the baptized is within the church. Sorry to "pick on" just a few. Most parish web sites make the same mistakes.