Last month I had the privilege of being an Observer on a Bishops’ Advisory Panel. “BAPs” as they are known are the Church of England’s way of discerning who may or may not be recommended for training for the ordained ministry.
It was a humbling experience, being in the presence of 8 men and 8 women aged between 23 & 67, each offering themselves to be trained to be a priest. It took me back to my own experience many years ago of being selected at the age of 23 to train for the ordained ministry.
These vocations will be as different as there are people. Every journey of vocation is invaluable and needs to be told, shared and cherished by the church. Together we discern the right paths and support one another on the way. Vocation has multiple threads – from being a friend, worker, parent, sibling, church member, carer, volunteer and many others, to taking up specific responsibilities in life, work or church.
A call to ministry can be held alongside other vocations, or it might be a disciple’s main vocation. In the New Testament ‘ministry’ is a public and commissioned role which God calls some individual disciples to and which is recognised by the Church. The Church of England is encouraging all Christians to think about their vocation, and, as part of this, whether they may be called to licensed lay ministry or ordination. We are delighted that in the past two years the number of people entering training for ordination has grown by a fifth. This is a testimony to the Church responding to the work of the Spirit, and we are immensely grateful to everyone who has worked hard to achieve it."
So what is your specific, individual, unique calling? Is it to a particular job or responsibility (paid or voluntary) at work or in the community? Or might it even be to some kind of role or ‘ministry’ within the church, lay or ordained. If your answer to any of these questions is yes, then either Gareth or I would be delighted to have a conversation with you. And if your answer is “I don’t know”, then we would still love to have a conversation with you! Please get in touch with one of us.
With best wishes
Of course ordination to the diaconate or the priesthood is not the only “calling” or vocation. A Christian’s primary calling stems from his or her Baptism, whether that Baptism took place as an adult or as an infant. It’s at Baptism that we turn to Jesus Christ and are called to follow his way and the leading of the Holy Spirit. God calls each of us to serve him and to care for his people.
But thinking about vocation should make each one of us stop and think about what is it that God is calling is to be and to do.
Last month the Archbishop of Canterbury sent out a pack to all parishes, with these words:
God calls us by name
"There is no greater joy in life than to follow Christ. No greater adventure, no greater purpose, no better way to live. But following Christ does not mean that we always know exactly what to do, and how our lives will unfold. Following Christ is embarking on a journey, and listening to the promptings of the Spirit, in prayer, in Scripture and through our brothers and sisters in Christ, so that we discover and grow into our calling. God calls all of us. God calls all of us to be disciples and to be church, and we hold this call in common. But God also calls all of us by name: specifically, individually, uniquely. This is when we speak of vocation: the specific path that our response to God’s love and grace will take in our own lives.