Tuesday, August 13, 2019

W. H. Griffith Thomas: The Work of Ministry

During my five years at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford, it fell to my lot to deal with the various aspects of ministerial life and service which are usually included in the term Pastoralia. This involved weekly addresses in Chapel on Saturday evenings, weekly lectures on Pastoral work, addresses at the openings of Terms, and occasional informal Conferences on some of the more outstanding ministerial and pastoral problems.

This book embodies the substance of what was then given, and it is reproduced in the hope that those to whom it was originally delivered may like to have a record of what I have reason to know were occasions not without interest ; and also that younger brethren in the ministry may find it of some service to compare their own experiences with what they see here as the result of a ministerial life extending (alas ! now) over twenty-five years.

If some readers should feel surprise at observing that several aspects of ministerial life are not dealt with in these pages, they may perhaps be reminded that my opportunity for treating Pastoral life and work extended at most to only thirty weeks each year, and that therefore with (as a rule) but one address and one lecture a week, it was impossible to cover more of the ground.

If, too, any brother in the ministry should be surprised at the comparative absence of reference to problems of Biblical Criticism and of scepticism, and to ways of meeting them, it ought to be said that these were dealt with in the Wycliffe Hall work by means of other courses of lectures.

Occasional repetitions may also provoke comment.The explanation is that the entire substance of the book was not given every year and, so, certain subjects were discussed under two or three different headings. But it is hoped that the prime importance of such topics as Prayer and the Bible will be a sufficient justification of any such repeated treatment.

One more word of personal explanation seems necessary.Some may think the various sections are unduly brief, but they have been kept so of set purpose. It was thought best to make the book as inclusive as possible, and considerations of space alone necessitated brevity. But far more than this: the book is intended primarily for clergy, and brevity with a view to the reader's own meditation, study, and elaboration appeared in every way best fitted to further the work of the ministry.

Ever since my thoughts were first turned in the direction of the ministry, now well over thirty years ago, I have felt a great attraction for all questions dealing with preaching, methods of ministerial work, and problems of teaching and service ; and I have read as widely as opportunity has permitted various volumes of Lectures on Preaching and Pastoral work. These chapters are therefore indebted directly and indirectly to very many writers whom it is now impossible to recall and name. But the Bibliography found at the end of this work and the references in certain chapters will serve to show something of the sources and extent of my indebtedness, and also to indicate what may be commended for consideration by brethren in the ministry.

The book is divided into three general sections. Part I. deals with the Man himself ; Part II. discusses his Work; then in Part III. an endeavour is made, by way of personal application, to consider the Man in relation to his Work. It has been impossible to keep these sections rigidly separate, since the Bible and Prayer Book teaching about the Minister necessarily touches on his Ministry as well. But, speaking generally, Part I. is intended to represent the ideal ; Part II. is concerned with actual methods of work; and Part III. with the bearing of the man on the work and of the work on the man.

It only remains for me to say with what joy (and I hope profit to myself) I have recalled in writing these pages the happy occasions on which I met the Students in the delivery of the addresses and lectures here recorded. The earnest attention of those Saturday evenings in Chapel, and the keen interest and animated discussions of the Friday evenings in the Library will never be forgotten by me, and will be cherished among the happiest times of my life at Wycliffe Hall. As I write these words I realize that we are now scattered far and wide, over England, the Colonies, and the Mission Field ; and I hope if any of my former students should see these lines, they may be reminded of old days and be led to pray that both writer and readers may make a full proof of their ministry.
So wrote W. H. Griffith Thomas in the preface to The Work of Ministry. Published in 1910, Griffith Thomas' The Work of Ministry is still a valuable resource for Anglican ministers, ordained or licensed. For those using the 1662 Book of Common Prayer its sections on reading the liturgy are particularly helpful.

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