Reflection: The Called and Gifted Workshop

On December 3-4, 34 members of St. Paul Parish assembled together to continue work  on the parish goals of Helping Orthodox Parishioners be Effective (HOPE) and on changing loafers into bakers

Fr. Michael teaching about the Gifts of the Holy Spirit

Fr. Michael Butler led us in the Called and Gifted Workshop, an effort to help parishioners discern their spiritual gifts so that all in the parish can contribute to the up-building of the Body of Christ.

Talking about Spiritual Gifts within an Orthodox parish is at least in modern times a fairly unexplored topic in the Orthodox world.  Not enough has been done to explore active lay ministry in parishes, and clericalization in the Church creates a passive attitude in the membership as they ever await direction from the clergy.  The Called and Gifted Workshop challenged us to see ourselves, the world and the Church in a new light, in order to help us change our vision of the life in Christ.  “It is  more blessed to give than to receive,” Jesus taught (Acts 20:35).  The Called and Gifted Workshop endeavors to help all parish members fulfill the role of being active givers to the world and to the church not just passive recipients of God’s grace.  It helps us see ourselves as imitating Christ who didn’t sit around waiting for the apostles to wash His feet, but who went around washing the feet of his disciples (John 13).

To have the new vision of ourselves as servants of Christ and not just passive disciples, we have to change our self-centered thinking in which we look for what we get out of church and instead begin to see what we have to offer to the church and to the world through the church.  We do not attend church just to have our personal spiritual needs met, but rather so that we can work for the salvation of the world – to carry out the mission and ministry which Christ established for us (Matthew 28).  The Church exists for the sake of the world and for its salvation, and we must come to live our lives and be both the salt of the earth and light to the world.

Workshop Participants

The new vision of ourselves as the Body of Christ in which all are active co-ministers of the Gospel and in which all are engaged in the priesthood of all believers is given to us by the Holy Spirit and sustained by the gifts which the Holy Spirit distributes upon all of the members of the local church community.

“ And his gifts were that some should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers,  to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11-12).

All gifts from God are given for the common good.  We are to use the gifts in order to build up the Body of Christ.  The gifts (charisms) of the Spirit which are given to each baptized believer are not just desires or wishes, but are real manifestations of God acting in the lives of each and all believers.

Having learned about the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and having made an effort as community to discern those gifts in individual members, we will continue as a parish to discern what God has gifted us to do as community, the Body of Christ in Dayton.

For me as priest, I realized more than ever that the parish really is the Body of Christ, made up of many members, of which I am only one.  I do not possess all of the gifts of the Spirit, and in fact lack many significant ones.  But as only one member of the local Body of Christ, the Church is not limited by me.  When all of the members are aware of their spiritual gifts and are working together to build up the Body, then the fullness of the Church is realized.  Like a giant jigsaw puzzle all of the pieces of the puzzle are needed for the purpose and the witness of the Church to be made clear.  When all members realize they are both called by God and gifted by God, then the priest can fulfill the words of St. John the Baptist who said of Christ that He must increase but I must decrease (John 3:30).  As one member of the Body of Christ or as one piece of the parish puzzle, I am important to the whole, but the whole is not limited to or by me.  When I work within the Body together with all the members, humility and love allow me to take on the role assigned to me, not to lord it over the community, but to work out my salvation in it.  And indeed Christ increases while I decrease.