It seems to be part of our essential humanity to live in the midst of great change and the breaking forth of new ways without taking a serious measure of what is unfolding around us. We live so much in the midst of things that it is sometimes difficult to know and to name those forces and circumstances that are molding us. For that reason, it is an invaluable exercise to stop, step back, and reflect: Who are we, and who are we becoming? At a deeper level, we must ask: Are we becoming more who God wants us to become, or less?
From my perspective, one change has greatly influenced our perceptions of who we are and are becoming as God's people: That is a recovery of the understanding of the ministry of each of us, clergy and laity, by virtue of our baptism. Though we have always understood that through baptism we are marked as Christ's own forever, I do believe that in the past 20 years we have come to a deeper awareness of what that really means.
The promises of our baptismal covenant are very clear. Among them, as worded in the Episcopal Church's Book of Common Prayer, are these: "Will you proclaim by word and example the good news of God in Christ? Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself? Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?"
When these promises are taken seriously, they influence our thoughts and actions in all areas of our lives. They say a great deal about who we are and are becoming. Over these past 20 years, lay and ordained Christians, in abiding by their baptismal vows, have both broadened and sharpened the idea of what it means to be a minister of Christ.