Lay people are better Christians

The clergy stay behind after the service to prepare for the next one. It’s the lay people who go out into the world to live the Christian life. It’s the lay people who engage daily with the practical issues of how to be Christian in the modern world. It’s the lay people who engage with the outside world the way that Jesus did, day by day. The clergy are just the support team: the lay people are the ones actually doing it.

Of course the clergy do have roles in the outside world, like acting as spokes-persons for their congregations, but when they start being determined to engage directly with the outside world in their own right, by-passing their congregations, what they are actually doing is trying to rediscover the raw reality of being lay people.

My old school-friend Toby Scott quoted the phrase at me, or something like it (“So you’re saying lay people are better Christians?”), during an interview about Last Rites for Methodist Web Radio. It sounded quite shocking, hearing it stated so boldly, and I made a joke of it … but when I played the interview back, it turned out that I had said it first, to make the point (at my own expense, being ordained myself):

Ordinary faithful churchgoing laity are better Christians than the ordained, who don’t have proper jobs. … They [the laity] are the real Christians, they’re the ones who are actually out there in the world doing priestly stuff day by day in their ordinary lives, and those who stay behind and tidy up to prepare the next service are lesser Christians in a sense … now maybe that’s overstating it, but it’s so important to counter [the more usual, opposite view]

There is a balance and a harmony to be found. There is justification for some lay people having the role of church worker or congregation supporter, and belonging to a network of other people engaged in the same work – just as there is justification for having lay people working as plumbers, builders, bankers, social workers, prison officers, road-sweepers, restauranteurs, or any other of the many roles in which we serve one another. (Anyone who is either thanked or paid is appreciated by someone.)

You can read about Last Rites here

You can hear the full interview here:
StreamDownloadMethodist Web Radio

See also: Gay men make better priests

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