Today is the 60th anniversary of my father, Brian Carrell's ordination to the priesthood on 1 December 1957. In the low church tradition of our family there will be no special service to mark this anniversary. But we are noting it. It is a milestone. It has got me thinking about what might be noteworthy about such an anniversary, even within a tradition which takes great care about singling out such milestones lest an unwarranted distinction between clergy and laity within the priesthood of all believers widens further. Many friends and family have ministered in the church for those 60 years, not least my mother May Carrell, and more. And mostly not much is made of lay anniversaries for ministry. Occasionally I hear people note the years (say) since their confirmation.
Here is what I think is noteworthy about today's anniversary, even within a low church tradition.
It is 60 years of living life in a particular ordering through being available. To God, open to being placed where God and the bishop see fit, and to church and to community as priest - exercising roles of presbyter/elder, pastor, preacher and presider. In that ordered life there are responsibilities and privileges which are different to those of lay ministers of the church. Some of those responsibilities, for instance, are quietly significant and burdensome - by "quietly" I mean that as presbyters-and-pastors there are many instances in which confessions and confidences are received which few know anything about; difficult questions are asked by individuals which in the nature of the question cannot be widely shared in order to arrive at a wise and (because it is asked of an officer of the church) responsible answer for which the priest may later be held accountable according to the discipline of the church.
Secondly, in the priestly ordering of life, a priest is always accountable to an authority - to one's bishop, the local synod and the General Synod. Sixty years, in this case, of taking care to observe rules and regulations - more of which apply to clergy as officers of the church than to lay officers - to honour the church rather than to bring it into disrepute, and to respect the bishop, no matter what one thinks privately of the latest episcopal missive or appointment just announced.