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In March 2000 I spent ten days in hospital when surgeons removed half of my colon. I came round from the anaesthetic in extreme pain with tubes everywhere and thirty-five surgical staples holding a twelve-inch wound together. The hours that followed my operation were a haze of pain and sleep as I regularly pressed a small button to self-administer morphine to dull the pain. As the hours and days passed I had time to observe the comings and goings on the ward. There were cleaners who cleaned, nurses and auxiliaries who responded, chaplains who visited, and many others who shared in the process of helping the hospital to function.

There is one nursing auxiliary I will never forget. She was a large and untidy lady who was prone to fruity language. I remember watching her scratch her backside with a pencil, then place the pencil behind her ear. One morning she asked how I was, which was a strange question as I could not sit up in bed without assistance at that stage. I mentioned that I was feeling down because I could not wash my hair, which by now was quite greasy. She went and fetched shampoo and a bowl of water. She sought help to sit me up and then she washed my hair. And that is the most wonderful and precious thing another human being has ever done for me.

The nursing auxiliary had no qualifications, hence her position. She could only assist the state registered nurses. She would never be a doctor or a surgeon, but what she did was vital to my morale and to my recovery. The surgeon only removed the diseased part of my colon, the nursing auxiliary made me feel human again.

That is how it is in church. We are not all called to be apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, or teachers. Some of us excel at greeting people on the door, some of us bake cakes for events, clean the building inside and out, visit folk in their homes, are on the music rota, move chairs, pray with people, listen to people. Some of us make other people feel human again. Each one of us matters. Everyone is equally important, and everyone has a ministry role to fulfil. Without our different gifts the Body of Christ cannot function.

So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. (Ephesians 4: 11-16)