The Gift That Is in You: A Model for Wholeness in Ministry
J.G. Reade was Librarian of the Dalhousie Ocean Studies Programme, Dalhousie University, Halifax.
The Gift That Is in You is based on a series of sermons, teaching sermons, preached in an Anglican church during Lent. The congregation that first heard these sermons was facing an unusual crisis, in that its members had recently learned that their priest was going blind. This series of sermons, therefore, was an attempt, by a visiting minister asked to assist in the crisis, to put into perspective all the facets of the community’s life, to delineate and describe them, and to assess their value and importance for the community’s changed future.
The components of the life of that Christian community were broken down as follows: preaching and teaching, outreach and evangelism, administration, spirituality, pastoral care, and worship. Bishop Valentine deals with each of these in a short chapter. Each component is then further broken down into its essential aspects. Administration, for example, encompasses worship, buildings, finances, education, visiting, records, resources, pastoral practicalities, and community organization. Because of the original nature of this work, all aspects of the topics are treated briefly, generally in a page or less. Topics are also expressed diagrammatically at the beginning of each chapter, and at the end of each chapter are questions for discussion.
What I enjoyed about this book was the author’s ability to select and crystallize the essentials in the life of a Christian community. (Conversely, what is frustrating about this work is that none of these essentials can be discussed in any detail; their description serves only as a prompt, a guideline. Many congregations will need more than this and will have to move on to other handbooks for further guidance.)
The Gift That Is in You would serve best, I think, as a self-examination document; it could help a congregation determine what are or what ought to be the essential elements of its ministry and how priest and people should be spending their time in the furtherance of God’s kingdom on earth. This book, therefore, works on the individual as well as on the collective level. The wholeness in ministry that Bishop Valentine stresses is not merely a question of doing the right things at the right time, but of pastor and people working together and contributing their several talents to a programme that both looks inward and reaches outward.