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Living on the Border of the Holy: Renewing the Priesthood of All [Paperback]

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Item Specifications...

Pages   205
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.9" Width: 6" Height: 0.6"
Weight:   0.7 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Jan 1, 1999
Publisher   Morehouse Publishing
ISBN  0819217735  
EAN  9780819217738  

Availability  0 units.

Item Description...
There is a lot of tension in churches today about whose ministry is primary - that of the laity or of the clergy. Living on the Border of the Holy offers a way of understanding the priesthood of the whole people of God and the priesthood of the ordained by showing how both are rooted in the fundamental priestly nature of human life. After an exploration of the ministries of laity and ordained, Countryman examines the implications of this view of priesthood for churches and for education those studying for ordination.

Publishers Description
"The first thing to say in our exploration of priesthood is this: priesthood is a fundamental and inescapable part of being human. All human beings, knowingly or not, minister as priests to one another. All of us, knowingly or not, receive priestly ministrations from one another. Unless we begin here, we are not likely to understand the confusions and uncertainties and opportunities we have been encountering in the life of the church itself in recent years. We shall be in danger, in fact, of creating makeshift solutions to half-understood problems, easy answers to misleading questions, temporary bandages for institutions that need to be healed from the ground up." - L. William Countryman There is a lot of tension in churches today about whose ministry is primary-that of the laity or of the clergy. L. William Countryman argues that we can only resolve that problem by seeing that we are all priests simply by virtue of being human and living, as we all do, on the mysterious and uncertain border with the Holy. Living on the Border of the Holy offers a way of understanding the priesthood of the whole people of God and the priesthood of the ordained in complementary ways by showing how both are rooted in the fundamental priestly nature of human life. After an exploration of the ministry of both laity and ordained, Countryman concludes by examining the implications of this view of priesthood for churches and for educating those studying for ordination.

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
Seminary Quality  Aug 19, 2006
Of course this book is already on the seminary reading lists at most Episcopal seminaries. If not, I would surely recommend it. I am in the discernment process for the priesthood in the Episcopal Church. This book has been extremely helpful in developing a fuller understanding of the priesthood of all believers as well as the professional priesthood for some.
The priesthood of all...  Jun 6, 2003
I thought long and hard as to what should be my first book to read after my ordination to the priesthood. What would be a suitable task for the newly-minted Father Kurt? I found it in this book.

Bill Countryman's book, `Living on the Border of the Holy' carries the subtitle `Renewing the Priesthood of All'. There has been movement afoot in many religions and denominations to 'spread the wealth' as it were, to make clergy-types somewhat less of a hierarch and recognise that all are children of God and thus much more equal than they are ever meant to be set apart.

As a priest I concur -- I will fail in my duties if I do not at all times and in all places strive to give the greatest access to all aspects of worship to all people. To this end, the more I reserve things to myself (only a priest can do that!) the more I disturb the purpose of worship, the more I set myself above my fellow children of God, and the more I slip away from the divine.

Bill Countryman, whom I have met on several occasions, is himself an Episcopal priest, and in this book is committed to the idea that churches everywhere need to reclaim as much more than the latest evangelistic slogan or church-growth tactic the priesthood of all believers. We are all in this together! We all come from the same source, and ultimately have the same hopes. And, if Jesus himself didn't set himself above, why should we, as his servants, and thus the servants of the servant, and servants thus of all.

`In his ministry, Jesus stood not above, but alongside those who came to him. In him, they found a person who was truly one of them, even though far more at home in the border country. He introduced them to the Holy as to Health, to Hope, to Good News, to Love. All this was as disturbing to his original listeners as it is still to us. To be in the presence of the One Who Is, the power that created all things, and the Love that can never be driven away is both exhilarating, because it means we are in the presence of the ultimate Good, and terrifying, because it seems to threaten our rather puny control over our own lives.'

My friend Ann was ordained a priest last year; I sent this book to her. I recommend this book to any who sense a calling. I recommend this book to any who have lost that sense. I recommend it to those who are sure of what they are doing, and those who are unsure.

Countryman talks about the need for all people to remember that ministry is not a gift intended to create or perpetuate a power imbalance of strong versus weak. It is supposed to be a relationship of equals. We all have weaknesses, and this unites us more than our power differentials define us as separate. `We understand that we cannot stand above anyone else in the presence of God, only alongside.'

This mutuality is what I must constantly strive to recall. I have charged my presenters, my friends, with a specific task -- to slap me hard whenever I fail to recognise that I am one of the crowd, and that if I must lead, it must be from within the community, and not to let pride of place carry me to the edge of the community against them and our creation-inborn mutuality.

`Ordination (or its equivalent in the form of licensing or religious vows or acceptance by a congregation of a charismatic figure) makes a particular person a sacrament. What does that mean? That the person ordained is henceforth a perfect person? HARDLY.'

In my own notation, I've added the emphasis on my own; I must carry this every day, ever present before me.

Valuable and important discussion of ministry  Apr 8, 2001
In "Living on the Border of the Holy", Episcopal priest Louis William Countryman invites his readers into an important and thought-provoking discussion on the nature of priesthood, ministry, the sacraments and the church. In engaging such issues as the role of the laity, the function of the ordained ministry and its role in the church, Dr. Countryman reminds us that all Christians - indeed, all humans - are not only sacred, but function as priests and ministers in their own right, and each has his or her own calling.

This book strips away many preconceptions regarding ordained ministry and invites its readers into a dialogue concerning the nature of priesthood, vocation and calling. It would make (and has made) a wonderful basis for a study group, and should be required reading for anyone even nibbling away on the idea of ordained ministry. A deeply thought-provoking, valuable, and insightful spiritual resource.

Discerning the Priesthood of All Persons  Aug 21, 2000
The publication of L. William Countryman's LIVING ON THE BORDER OF THE HOLY: RENEWING THE PRIESTHOOD OF ALL (1999) comes at a time when the nature of the relationship between clergy and laity in the church suffers from confusion. In a society marked by shifting norms of authority and disagreement in matters of moral value, the status of ordination suffers from a crisis of legitimacy. This crisis raises many questions. Are priests and ministers different than laypersons? Are the ordained morally superior to laypersons? Are they more intellectually gifted? Should clergy be held to higher standards than the laity? Does the status of ordination mean that the ministries of laypersons are somehow less important? Does the very idea of ordination violate the status of equality before God in Christ bestowed on Christians by virtue of baptismal incorporation into the church? In light of such questions, the very idea of "priesthood" may appear irrelevant if not offensive. In response to such questions and in response to the many inadequate conceptions of the relationship between clergy and laity in Christian history, Countryman seeks to recover the multivalent and egalitarian meaning of "priesthood."

A threefold distinction between the fundamental priesthood of humanity, the priesthood of religion, and the priesthood of all baptized Christians underlies the book. The priesthood of humanity pertains to the capacity of persons to introduce each other to the "hidden things" and the "secrets" that give life its rich and mysterious meaning (p. 3). The practices of the fundamental human priesthood emerge out of the intersection of the ordinary, everyday world of human experience and the "hidden reality" of mystery that transcends, envelops, shapes, and sustains the whole of life (p. 6). The practices of human priesthood take shape in a variety of forms. They include, but are not limited to, the ministrations of parenting, friendship, mentoring, counseling, managing, teaching, and serving. Basic to all of these priestly practices is the capacity to instill dispositions of thinking, feeling, and acting that help persons grow in openness and communion with the Holy and with other persons (p. 13).

The priesthood of religion - or the sacramental priesthood - refers to the fundamental priesthood of humanity when shaped by the languages, symbols, and rituals of a particular religious tradition. For Christians, this means that the fundamental priesthood of humanity finds its meaning and purpose in the story of how Jesus Christ exercised his priestly vocation of forgiveness and reconciliation. Some readers may find the implications of Countryman's move from the fundamental to the sacramental priesthood religiously unsettling. It implies that Christian revelation of truth cannot be equated with truth as such. However, because the church has historically affirmed that human ideas of God and truth cannot be strictly equated with God and truth per se, Countryman's move is consistent with the best insights of orthodox Christian tradition. "TRUTH, as such, is beyond our grasp," Countryman writes (p. 28). Echoing the language of St. Paul in I Corinthians 13:12, he adds that, because human finitude and sinfulness "distort the lens through which we look," persons "can at most grasp lesser truths of varying degrees of inclusiveness" (ibid.). Precisely for this reason, human beings need signs and icons to point them beyond their narrow perspectives to the places where ordinary life and the Holy intersect. For this reason, Countryman argues, religious traditions - including the Christian church - set certain persons apart to serve as sacramental signs whose words and deeds point beyond themselves to the truthful and mysterious character of the Holy that transcends the finite boundaries of human concepts and communities.

Countryman's discussion of the priesthood of the Christian people - whether lay or ordained - forms the heart of the book's concerns. "There is no vocation higher than that of the fundamental priesthood, which is Christ's own priesthood," Countryman insists, adding that "vocations, including those leading to ordination, always center in the fundamental priesthood and how we are asked by God to fulfill it" (p. 144). In other words, Countryman argues that an adequate understanding of ordained ministry requires seeing how it emerges from, serves, and nurtures the priestly calling of all baptized persons to Christ's "ministry of reconciliation" (II Corinthians 5:18 RSV). This means that any conception of ordained ministry that pits priests and pastors against laypersons in the church and/or against the vocations of persons in the larger world is a self-serving betrayal of the priesthood of humanity that Christ seeks to restore to wholeness through the ministry of reconciliation.

Countryman's distinctions between the priesthood of humanity, the fundamental priesthood of the baptized, and the ordained priesthood provide an excellent context for discernment of vocational calling. It also makes clear that the ordained priesthood gains its value and dignity only insofar as it remains thoroughly grounded in and nurturing of the fundamental priesthood of all baptized persons. Countryman's book makes no bones about the fact that the general priesthood of all believers in service to the priesthood of all humanity must take priority in the mission and ministry of the church. This perspective can help keep in check the tendency of ordained priests and ministers to think too highly of themselves while laypersons think too little of themselves.

All baptized Christians interested in discerning their God-given gifts and the possibilities for ministry to which God calls them will find this book helpful. LIVING ON THE BORDER OF THE HOLY is a well-written, insightful, and theologically sound resource for helping all Christians - lay and ordained - engage the central question of spiritual discernment: "What gifts do I have, and to what ministry or ministries am I called to exercise those gifts?" If all baptized Christians take discernment of this question of priestly vocation seriously, the church will go a long way towards ameliorating the confusion and crisis of legitimacy surrounding the idea of "priesthood."

This should be required reading!  Jan 23, 2000
Although the first half of this book takes some plodding through, by the end I was completely captivated and found this to be a wonderful explanation of priesthood. Dr. Countryman has articulated what I have felt for 41 years but could not quite as beautifully explain. I will read and re-read this book. It has affirmed for me why I am considering the ordained priesthood and lays before me a picture of the kind of priest I hope I am and will become. This book is a gift of faith and grace to all religions. God Bless Dr. Countryman for sharing this gift with us.

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