Q. What is the ministry of a priest or presbyter?
A. The ministry of a priest is to represent Christ and his Church, particularly as pastor to the people; to share with the bishop in the overseeing of the Church; to proclaim the Gospel; to administer the sacraments; and to bless and pardon in the name of God.
--Q&A from The Book of Common Prayer (in "An Outline of the Faith, commonly called the Catechism")
The whole Church shares in the priesthood of Christ, reconciling the world to God. The Church offers to God the fruits of God’s creation and human labor for God’s purposes. As the Church gathers for worship, it presents its corporate life under the signs of bread and wine to God, and receives that life back again from God, blessed as the Body and Blood of Christ. The Church itself becomes part of Christ’s sacrifice, the Body of Christ offered for the life of the world.
Modeling Christ's priestly ministry
Priests are set aside by the call of the Church and ordination by the Bishop to model for the Church the priestly ministry of Christ. As pastors and teachers, priests gather and equip the people of God to take their share in the ministry of Christ and the Church. Through the sacramental life of the Church, a priest is the instrument of Christ nurturing the life of the congregation.
As pastor to the people, a priest acts as steward of the congregation’s common life and fosters the relationships that constitute the Body of Christ. Priests invite congregations to discern the ways they may best engage in God’s ministry of reconciliation in their particular settings, then elicit the gifts of all for that ministry.
Our story, as community together, and in the world
In proclaiming the Gospel in word and deed, a priest helps the congregation understand its own story in terms of God’s saving acts in history. A priest helps a congregation see God’s saving grace active in its common life: in joy, in suffering, in welcoming new members into the Body, in care given to one another, and at the last, in commitment of its members into God’s hands (BCP 569). The priest also helps the congregation see God’s saving grace in its ministries to the world outside its doors, and in so doing, connects the congregation’s mission to the story of God’s grace in God’s people and in the life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus.
Presiding at the Eucharist, a priest speaks on behalf of the whole Church as the Body of Christ, presenting the congregation’s common life to God. The priest gives thanks to God for God’s saving acts, particularly in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, and invokes the Holy Spirit over the gifts and the people.
Through the praise and thanks of priest and people, God transforms gifts and people into the Body and Blood of Christ, which strengthen the congregation to offer itself for the life of the world.
In all this, priests work with the diocese, gathered with the bishop, to help guide the whole Church in the reconciling ministry of Christ to the world.