Readers of Southern Cross will have noticed the large number of vacant parishes over the past couple of years. Of course, the reason for listing vacant parishes each month should be obvious. We want you to pray for these parishes, for their nominators and for the Synod-elected members who comprise the Nomination Board that presents a name (or names) for the consideration of the Archbishop – offering him an appointment to the cure of souls, in accordance with the Nomination Ordinance. 

The list is not provided merely for curiosity’s sake, but for our prayerful consideration. I therefore encourage you, when reading your Southern Cross, to take a moment to pray for each of these parishes. There are more than 30 of them listed this month – so they all need your prayers. You might also consider praying for suitable men to fill these positions. For unless there are men willing and able, gifted and godly, prepared to take on the challenge of being the pastor-teacher of God’s people, these parishes will remain vacant and their ministry impaired.

The role of rector is an important part of our parish system. Indeed, the appointment of presbyters or elders to lead the church of God is a God-given mandate for the health of his people. Jesus’ appointment of 12 disciples was for the purpose of training them to become fishers of men and women, and teachers of God’s word under the new covenant so that the people of God might be equipped for every good work. 

The apostles were a discrete number of men, who exercised a foundation-laying ministry, along with the New Testament prophets (Ephesians 2:20). However, the “superstructure” gifts of evangelists, pastors and teachers reflect the ongoing gifts of Christ, equipping the saints for ministry and building up the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:11-12). The apostle Paul saw this task as an imperative, as he appointed elders in every church with prayer and fasting (Acts 14:23) and gave instruction to Titus to do the same (Titus 1:5) outlining the qualifications for elders, as he did also to Timothy. Of course, we need deacons as well as presbyters, women in ministry as well as men.

Paul was following in his Master’s footsteps, of course, as Jesus encouraged his disciples to pray to the Lord of the harvest that he would send labourers into his harvest (Matthew 9:37). Note, firstly, that it is God’s harvest. He draws men and women to himself and he draws labourers into his harvest. Secondly, note that Jesus invites us to pray to God to that very end. How often do you pray to God to raise up men and women to become full-time labourers in the Father’s harvest? Who in your congregation might have the gifts of grace for leadership, but might lack the prayers of God’s people to encourage them and challenge them to consider full-time ordained ministry in our Diocese?

The Rev Dr Ed Loane recounts this delightful story about the Rev D.J. Knox, father of Canon Broughton Knox. Although retired by the late 1950s, Knox often filled his Sundays preaching in different places.

Once, while he was racing between two churches to preach, a policeman pulled him over for speeding. The officer asked why he was travelling so quickly and Knox explained that he would not have to travel so fast between churches if more young men like the policeman entered the ministry. This comment resonated with the policeman and Knox was allowed to travel without reprimand.

Loane then makes the comment: 

Knox’s ministry is a good example of the dedication and priorities that have shaped Sydney Anglican clergy. At the same time, the interaction with the policeman highlights his concern that more Christians would rise to the need of leadership in the church.

Dr Loane’s commentary on the need for more leaders in the Sydney Diocese forms one of a number of short essays on the theme: Mission Before Us. Why Sydney Anglican Ministry? The book is published by the Australian Church Record and will be promoted at the online event run by Moore College: “From Sydney to the World – The Next Generation of Labourers for the Harvest.” It takes place on Saturday, August 15, from 2-4pm. 

I am sending two copies of Mission Before Us to all parish clergy in the Sydney Diocese, which have been generously provided free of charge by ACR. Why not ask to borrow a copy from your minister – or better still, obtain a copy for yourself, so that having read it you can then pass it on to a young man or woman in your congregation who would benefit from considering ordained ministry as a vocation. Encourage them to watch the online event at Moore College – or better still, watch it with them. 

Above all, pray. Pray for each of our vacant parishes. Pray to the Lord of the harvest that he might raise up a fresh generation of labourers for his harvest.