LAST weekend in cathedrals and churches across the country, women and men were ordained to work as clergy in parishes and communities. I was glad to be at two services here in Salisbury to support students from Sarum College. Those training for ministry come from a wide variety of backgrounds and many have given up prior professional work for their calling to serve.

I have been a priest for 34 years and my father still teases me about getting a proper job. Some may well wonder what it is that clergy do. Who are priests? What do they think life is about?

A core priority of our clergy is teaching people to pray and responding to people’s requests to pray for them and others. A nun taught me that prayer is not about what we say to God, but about what God says to us. In silence, we can know ourselves to be loved by God.

Ordination commits clergy to be people of prayer. Clergy will want to share that we are loved and given strength for our living and dying.

Does any of this make any difference? We easily misunderstand what being Church is. Some people think that Christianity is a hobby. Just as some people play tennis, and others collect wild flowers and some go to the gym, we go to church. The church is our leisure activity.

My nephews challenge me to defend whether being a Christian changes the way we live, the way we spend our money, the things we buy and the manner in which we inhabit the planet.

Christian communities have always wanted to nurture a loving lifestyle and ethic which can be evidently lived out. We are as busy, as driven, and sometimes as frantic as everyone else. Yet if we genuinely care for peace, or for the environment, prayer will focus our attention and encourage us to live out the very things we pray for. In this way we even begin to become the answer to our own prayers. Then our lives make a difference.

Our values and our actions reflect the Gospel and challenge others to change as well. Christianity itself is no longer seen as only a set of beliefs, or something that some people do on Sundays, but a way of life, a way of inhabiting life, treading lightly on the earth and genuinely caring for our neighbours.

This is part of who clergy are and what they do. This is demanding work. It requires sensitive listening and careful teaching. Clergy accompany, encourage and care. Spare a thought (and prayer) for those who have begun this journey of service.

The Rev Canon Professor James Woodward

Principal of SarumCollege