As I reflect on the different things that led me here, and the experiences I have had in the few years since my ordination, I thought that Michael Ramsey's The Christian Priest Today would be a worthwhile text to read and contemplate. 'Today' for Ramsey is not in fact today--the book is derived from lectures first published in 1972, and revised again in 1985. These are available in a slim volume published in the United States by the Cowley Press, well known for liturgical and theological works. Michael Ramsey was Archbishop of Canterbury, and one of the men to have held that job in the last century particularly noted for his theological ability. (Most, but not all, have been regarded as theologically unsophisticated and lackluster -- William Temple is another exception to this rule.) Ramsey credits Karl Rahner and Edward Schillebeeckx as particularly valuable theological mentors; interesting intellectual friends, given that both were Roman Catholics. Ramsey also gives mention to the influence of Henry Chadwick, Richard Baxter and P.T. Forsyth. It is gratifying for the theological scholar to have such influences noted up front, so that further research can be carried out and the guessing game of 'where did he find that?' is made much less mysterious. Ramsey begins the book by talking about the general decline in Christendom, and the decline in particular societies of religious sentiment and affinity. However, he also notes that `...there are priests and would-be priests as devoted and as intelligent as at any time in history. This book is designed to hearten them and to help them in their understanding of their calling.` It is for this reason that I consider it a valuable aid for reflection at this anniversary date of my own ordination. Ramsey discusses the tensions that exist for priests: the tension between this-worldliness and other-worldliness; the problem between varying kinds and tempers of biblical interpretation; the difficulty of maintain a balance between traditions and modernity. Ramsey's lectures are short and practical -- how to preach God today; how to preach Jesus today; the priest and politics; the priest as a person of prayer. These are all insightful snapshots of key issues that should be of concern to the priest, who is very easily distracted by the day-to-day cares of a parish or, in the cases of those of us who do not run parishes, in the rush of doing a 'real' job while also trying to give pastoral care to appointed communities. Ramsey warns against a clerical hubris that seems to permeate the clergy of many denominations, but particularly those who have strong hierarchical markers. He urges humility that is ever-present in the gospel messages, especially the gospel of ordination. By your humility, you will prove that the authority entrusted to you is really Christ's.... Everyone possessing authority is liable to become bossy and overbearing.... Everyone possessing privilege and security is liable to a subtle worldly enjoyment. Perhaps the most important chapter to me is the one entitled The God Who Calls, as it helped me clarify what I was being called to do, and how to navigate out of the church in which I had found myself blocked. Ironic that an Archbishop of Canterbury should help me leave the local incarnation of the Anglican church. However, I had been blocked by personalities without explanation for many years, one person of whom even stated that, with firm conviction, that the process for finding and ordaining priests is an infallible one, as God doesn't make mistakes. I found in the words of Ramsey (a much better authority than this misguided cleric) my redemption: '"Is this man truly called?" The Church has its procedures for deciding the acceptance or otherwise of a person for ordination to the priesthood. Here, if mistakes are made (and there can be no infallibilism) there may be confusion of the two questions. The one question is whether X has been called by God and wants to respond to the call. The other question is whether X looks like the sort of person we want as a priest in our Church.' It became clear to me that it wasn't that God wasn't calling me to the priesthood, but rather that for fairly prejudicial reasons, the Episcopal church in which I found myself didn't think I 'looked' like a priest of the sort they wanted. So the God who calls and is the author of our vocation is the God whose theology we study and teach, and the God who never ceases to be with us as we make him known. I have followed this God into uncharted territory, but still find support in the intellectual and spiritual grounding of my Anglican heritage, regardless of my official status with another church. Ramsey ends on a note of hope, community, and inclusiveness. The priest, in the church and without, is called to empower all people. Ramsey anticipates the later developments of theologians in the anglo-catholic traditions of recapturing a sense of the priesthood of all believers and making it whole and important to the life of the church. This is a development of which I am fully in accord, and see in Ramsey's messages to new priests and priests-to-be words that can reinvigorate my own ministry. This is not a book just for clerics, however. It is written with the intention of being useful to any who look for a deeper relationship with the church. It is very anglo-catholic; protestants from traditions that do not have strong hierarchies may have trouble internalising some of the chapters as useful to them. However, each of the chapters is short and meant to be taken as a piece of a larger whole while also being able to stand alone as a useful offering of wisdom.
This is a wonderful book, a collection of lectures given to young men - when the book was written all priests were men - on the eve of their ordination. the observations and insights given are still as fresh today as when the book was first published in 1972. I give this book my highest rating, and would suggest that anyone who is seeking a vocation or those that are involved with the selection of ordinands need to have this book in their library.
I enjoyed this book although it is twenty years or more since these addresses were given to ordination candidates. Consisting of material which was originally sermons, sometimes the wording has an aural feel to it and some issues are mentioned briefly rather than explored. Ramsey does discuss Christ but this is mainly applicatory. Inspirational and forward looking in tone rather than expositional but this suits the occasion on which these addresses were given. I believe they were given on the eve of ordination for the candidates. Some humour would have lightened the messages so four stars not five. This is a book recommended for those considering ordination but for myself Pritchard's The Life and Work of a Priest was more helpful.
This book was first published in the 1950's for priest who had alreasdy done their studies. However, it remains a deeply spiritual, inspirational and relevant book for those exploring their vocation as a priest. A must read for all those who believe they have a vocation in the church.
This is the Classic book by the Greatest Archbishop of the twentieth century for all who are examining their vocation. I always keep a copy on my bookshelves and a spare for those whoI think God is calling. Read page 43 and ask yourself, is this me?
A series of his addresses given at pre—ordination retreats. I expected these to be pious but was pleased to discover his comment on the relevance of social and political issues and the need to contemplate, avoiding a retreat—like prayer which is apart from the world. His reminder that seeming failure to change things should not cause depression because one human being is of great value to God and time spent with one person might not seem to yield big results in the eyes of the world.
Michael Ransey is a favourite of mine, and it impressed me that he (as a high chaurchman) had read "The Reformed Pastor" by Richard Baxter, a well known Puritan Divine. For anyone, be they Free-Church or Anglican, who feels they have a call to Ministry, this is a "must read". Deeply spiritual as well as practical - I hope more people discover it.
This is a very informative book and was chosen because it was recommended by a priest to my husband. It is alledged that it will give one Insight into what to expect as one begins their journey into the priesthood. Book arrived in time and in the condition as descriibed.