“Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone.” 1 Corinthians 12:4-6
- What is my life’s work?
- When in my life have I felt most alive?
- How do my passions and talents intersect with the needs of the world?
- How can I use my abilities in service to others?
What is Baptismal Ministry?
“God loves the world and all people are called to take their share in making God’s love real. In Holy Baptism the followers of Jesus commit themselves to nothing less than that task. We call it ministry.” – Bishop Jeffrey Lee, Diocese of Chicago
We are CALLED.
We are all beloved children of God. In the sacrament of baptism, we are welcomed into God’s family and “marked as Christ’s own forever.” Our baptismal covenant calls us to promote “justice and peace, respecting the dignity of every human being.” It asks us “to seek and serve Christ in all persons” by loving our neighbors as ourselves.
The church refers to these acts of service as baptismal ministry. Ministry is a gift from God. Baptismal Ministry is living into the Covenant. That does not mean that only baptized persons can engage in ministry. At the heart of Christian faith is an inclusive love that embraces everyone. As we all are made in God’s image and likeness, we are all in our very being called to use our distinct gifts in service to others. Identifying our specific ministries and growing into them is a lifelong journey.
Determining Our Ministry – Points of Entry and Expression
Baptismal ministry can take many forms. It can involve an immediate response to a crisis or other event. It can be lived out over many years, as with a career. Or it can involve a life-long relationship such as marriage or parenthood.
Some ministries take place within the four walls of a church, like being an acolyte, an usher, or a member of the choir or vestry. Other ministries involve service to the broader community, such as promoting peace and justice, working toward racial reconciliation, visiting prisoners, assisting the needy, or being a health care provider. Some of our most important tasks focus on how we relate to other people in our daily life – by truly listening to each other, being radically kind, showing undeserved grace, or simply treating others as we want to be treated.
Some of us find our vocations in the work that we are paid to do: we serve as care givers, bus drivers, baristas, performing artists, or teachers. Others find that our work pays the bills, while after hours we engage in tasks that attend to the needs of others, such as coaching, gardening, bringing food to a family in crisis, or preparing bags of toiletries for homeless folk.
Many of us already have ministries that we are living out. We simply need a new awareness of our faith-centered intentions.Our experience of God’s love impels us to share that love with others. In the words of the Book of Common Prayer, we are called not only to encounter God through worship, but also “to represent Christ and his Church; to bear witness to him wherever [we] may be; and, according to the gifts given [us], to carry on Christ’s work of reconciliation in the world.”
The Discernment Process
What activities in your life do you consider life-giving?
What activities make you feel closer to humankind? To God?
Where do your gifts meet the world’s needs?
The process in going about answering these questions is called discernment in the church. The discernment period compels us to spend some time reviewing and reminding ourselves what we agreed to in the Baptismal Covenant. This can be done as an individual or with supportive others.
Discovering one’s gifts and discerning how best to share them is a process that engages our best efforts every day. Anyone desiring supportive guidance in this discernment process might consider gathering a “discernment committee,”a small trusted group of people to share in prayer and reflective conversations centered around questions about a chosen ministry.
While the Baptismal Covenant is renewed at every baptism and the Easter Vigil, a time may be set aside throughout the year to acknowledge Baptismal Ministries on a Sunday morning including a renewal of the Covenant.