I am a massive Doctor Who fan.
Thirteen actors have headlined the series as the Doctor. The transition from one actor to another is written into the plot of the show with the concept of regeneration into a new incarnation, a plot device in which a Time Lord “transforms” into a new body when the current one is too badly harmed to heal normally. Each actor’s portrayal is unique, but all represent stages in the life of the same character. Together, they form a single lifetime with a single narrative. Now when you think about it this sounds a bit like a parish priest: a single lifetime with a single narrative. A priest in the Church of England is defined by their calling: the single narrative to ordained ministry. Extracts from the ordinal or ordination service state:
Priests are called to be servants and shepherds among the people to whom they are sent…With all God’s people, they are to tell the story of God’s love. They are to baptize new disciples in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and to walk with them in the way of Christ, nurturing them in the faith. They are to unfold the Scriptures, to preach the word in season and out of season, and to declare the mighty acts of God. They are to preside at the Lord’s table and lead his people in worship, offering with them a spiritual sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving. They are to bless the people in God’s name…Guided by the Spirit, they are to discern and foster the gifts of all God’s people, that the whole Church may be built up in unity and faith.
As priests we swear to abide by this calling. We wear this stamp of priesthood imprinted upon us through the laying on of hands in an unbroken apostolic succession leading back through time to the apostle, Peter.
As I write, the latest Doctor Who series has begun with a new Doctor. Dr Who is a traveller, as Jodie Whittaker, playing the new Doctor, reminds the viewers. Priests are travellers too, called to follow in the footsteps of Christ wherever he leads us.