"Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses."
1 CORINTHIANS 12:4-11
A vocation is a divine call inviting you to become the person God intends you to be. There are many different types of calling and we are called to many different things. When the Church talks about vocation it is concerned with a specific ministry within the Body of Christ. In the Anglican Church we believe that God loves all of us and has given each of us gifts to use in the Kingdom. God calls each of us to a ministry and it is the Church's role to help discern that calling and where possible nurture it. So, although a calling is a very personal invitation it is nevertheless a gift to the whole Body of Christ (the Church). It is important to remember that a vocation is not just about ordained or even licensed ministry. It is even more important to remember that because God loves and values each of us equally, one calling is no more important than another - what matters is discernment and your response. Don't be fooled into thinking that being a priest or deacon is the highest calling. It can be tempting to think that the closer you are to the altar the closer you are to God. In reality how close you are to God depends upon how much time you spend in prayer. There is simply no substitute for talking and listening to your Saviour. And that's where your vocation begins...
Listening to God
To hear God we must first stop and listen. To get the right answers we must ask the right questions.
The first place to listen to God is always in prayer, but God also uses other people and experiences to guide you. You may notice recurring themes in your life, receive suggestions from friends and colleagues, or discover that your experiences equip you to cope with particular situations. Most people find that it takes some time to discern what God is saying to them, and many of them find the following things very helpful.
Talk to someone
- A vocation is never just about you, it's about your identity in a worshiping community. In the first instance your Vicar/Priest-in-Charge/Mentor is best placed to discuss your sense of call to ministry and perhaps help you to understand how the community sees you already.
Write a Spiritual Biography
- Go back through your life and identify significant events – points of celebration, trauma, relief, realisation – whatever stands out for you. Give these events prayerful reflection and explore what God might have been doing for you in them.
Spend time with a Spiritual Director
- Find a Spiritual Director and share your story. Listen to the questions they ask, make notes for further reflection, make notes of the questions that challenge/excite you.
Keep a Journal
- Note any changes in your thinking or expectations. Make a record of the recurring themes and the way you respond to them. People describe their calling as a "consuming, undeniable, physical conviction that just won't go away." Try to identify where that nagging sensation is for you.
In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”
The New Testament encourages us to examine everything and work out whether it is good (from God) or bad (and therefore something to avoid): 1 Thess 5:21-22.
The same can be said when trying to work out your vocation (or calling): some roles are right for us and some are not.
Discernment can be worked out just between you and God for some things, but often it is easier to work with individuals or a process to help you discover what God might be saying.
If you are considering ordained ministry the Discernment Process is a reasonably formal sequence of events, interviews, direction, prayer and assessments.
In their book Reader Ministry Explained, Cathy Rowling and Paula Gooder list these questions as an initial guide to discernment:
- What do I feel God drawing me towards in my life?
- Of all the ways of serving God that I can identify in my situation and context, which of them seems to be the most life-giving for myself and those around me?
- What particular gifts have I been given and how can these best be used in the service of others, of Christ and of the Church?
- What needs do I perceive both in the Church and outside it, and in what way can I respond to these needs?
- What do I enjoy doing and what gives me the most energy?
- What do other people most often ask me to do; does this tell me something about where they think my gifts lie?
(Gooder, P & Rowling C, Reader Ministry Explained (SPCK, London: 2009), p 42.)
You could also take a looks at Ten Steps to Discovering God's Call
Please know that the discernment process is deliberately long and confronting. In addition, the final result is not the product of boxes-ticked or hoops jumped through - it is an act of prayer that leads to corporate intuition. For this reason it is helpful to reflect on John leaping in Elizabeth's womb.
Ten Steps to Discovering God’s Call
- Examine how God has worked in your life (history, experience).
- Examine your past ministry experiences – what did/did not give you a sense of fulfilment? Why?
- Examine your interests – what do you have a passion for?
- Examine your talents.
- Discover your spiritual gifts – what special empowerment has God consistently provided for you to use in ministry?
- Evaluate what sacrifices (ie, time, money, investment in commitment) God seems to be calling you to make.
- Pray and keep on praying for discernment by LISTENING.
- Note what the community of faith seems to call you to.
- Talk about your sense of call with mature Christians who know you well and whose judgement you trust.
- When you have a sense of call, test it by the ‘Six E’s’ –
- ELIMINATE whatever does not meet the test of Scripture;
- EXAMINE your motives and desires in this area;
- EXPERIMENT in that area in various ways;
- EVALUATE your ‘success’ with the aid of the congregation (Does it bring peace? Joy? Is good fruit born of it?)
- EXCHANGE your role for another one if it does not fit you;
- EMBRACE the right ministry wholeheartedly.
What if I'm not in a worshiping community right now or don't know who to talk to?
You may find your self in between churches, or on the fringes trying to explore new ministry areas? Or perhaps you find it hard to talk to the leadership of your current spiritual home? You are not alone.
We are always happy to make time to listen to your story and help you discover where God might be leading you. Please contact the Vocations Officer - Rev Paul Weeding - (email@example.com) to see what we can do.
Ultimately we all need to be in a worshipping community to worship God, to enrich and be enriched by one another.
My name is Catherine McVey, mostly known as Cath. I work at Taranaki Cathedral as a Pioneer Minister. Simply put, this means I love connecting with our community and finding different ways of sharing the Gospel with those who may not be at church every Sunday. I have a passion for working with children and families, and I am involved with our Youth as well. I love coming up with fun ways of teaching our youngest disciples about Jesus and His stories and life on Sunday mornings too. I am blessed by a team of 4 volunteers who help me with this vision. My happiest place is at Pukeko Stomp, our two weekly music groups which are held here at the Interim Cathedral. This is an opportunity for pre-schoolers and their parents or carers to come along and have a fun session of music and movement; fabulous morning tea and then a chance to burn off some energy with toys and plastic motorbikes, which can get a little crazy. We have a team which all rearrange their other commitments to be there as Christ’s hands and feet to our community as they all love it so very much! It is a team approach which makes this ministry so sustainable, just as the body of Christ, we all have a part to play to make it a wonderful outreach.
This generation is crying out for guidance in reconciling our shared past to our shared present. My vocation is tangled up with this desire of our people to find a way to seek forgiveness for our deeply troubling past. I believe this is centred on our contemplation and sanctification in the Eucharist which leads us to an embrace of one another as our Lord Jesus Christ has towards us through the incarnation at Christmastide. As he embraced us in our struggles at Passiontide and continues to embrace us in the resurrection hope at Eastertide. Ko te Karaiti te aranga nui, ko ia te tatau pounamu moo taatou katoa.
Ben Ong, PhD Candidate and student at the College of St John the Evangelist, Auckland
Bishop's Ministry Advisors (also known as BMAs and Examining Chaplains) are people with the gift of discernment who interview candidates for ordination and offer the Bishop advice. BMAs can be lay or ordained people, and are not always selected from inside the church. Their role is explore the sense of call that our candidates have through prayer and questioning.
Discernment is not straight forward. We are not tied to check boxes or psychological evaluations; though both have a part to play. Ultimately, discernment carries with it a sense of knowing that is not always easy to articulate or define, but which is nevertheless authentic and valid. We often refer to the pregnant encounter between Mary and her cousin: "When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the baby leapt in her womb." (Luke 1: 39-45) This reminds us that the Spirit communicates at a deep level - and it is that level that we are seeking.
The next BMA Training will take place at Charlotte Brown House on Saturday May 1, 2021, commencing at 10am. A zoomlink will be made available to those who cannot be there in person.
For more information please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
- The art of asking questions and the challenge to follow your gut (workshop)
- An update on the need to enhance the discernment process in the light of the Royal Commission