God is still calling
23 April 2020
By Jenny Bridgman, Director of Studies for Pastoral Workers
We are beginning to settle into a new normal. The future is shaped by uncertainty, by loss, and by new ways of being, but we, as the Church and as individuals and communities, are adapting to this. Ways of life which seemed unthinkable just weeks ago are now part of our everyday routines.
As officers of the Committee for Ministry, we have been asking questions around how this crisis might shape our work, as well as the work of local churches. We have reflected particularly on how our work in discernment and training might be affected. And we have emerged from these conversations with a sense of optimism about the coming weeks and months.
Accounts from Scripture and Christian tradition suggest that liminal space is a significant place for vocations to emerge. This matches our experience, in which we often meet men and women going through a crisis, or a major life change, and finding themselves asking questions about God’s call on their life. What is it about a change of life circumstances that leads to new callings and ministries? Perhaps God speaks in the darkest times, or perhaps we are more attuned to God’s voice when life changes its rhythm.
Together we have been cast into this ‘in-between’ place. Already we are wondering how the present reality will shape the life of the Church into the future. It feels likely that even now, the future leaders of this future church are being stirred into discerning a new way forward for their lives. Priest-poet John O’Donohue sums it up perfectly in his poem For the Interim Time:
"The old is not old enough to have died away;
The new is still too young to be born."
In these liminal days, how do we help people bring “the new” to birth?
We are expectant through these difficult days that many in our congregations may begin to discern a sense of calling. Others may feel that now is a good time to act upon a long-held and growing vocation. Still others may be seeking to serve in new ways, without knowing where an exploration of this might lead. We are operating in new and different ways, and this may well bring new and perhaps unexpected people to articulate something of God’s call on their own lives.
Yet these new ways of thinking and working may produce fruit that, to this point, had not grown. Are there people within your community who are emerging as leaders within this new way? Are there those who are demonstrating potential to deepen in vocation and to offer for some form of licensed ministry or service beyond the Church? Are there people who would benefit from theological study as they seek to discern where God might be calling them to next?
For us, it will be business as usual. We are expecting the Foundations for Ministry Course to run again from September. We will be operating a ‘pro-tem’ selection process for Lay Reader and Pastoral Worker candidates in coming weeks, to enable them to begin training in the Autumn, with a further discernment process to follow at the end of the academic year 2021. We are aware there may be an increased need for flexibility in how training is delivered over the coming year, and we are ready to meet this challenge.
As in every area of Church life in the present moment, we are adapting how we work. But we are still operating and will be for as long as ministry in the diocese continues. We are watchful and expectant for the signs of God stirring among us, and we hope and anticipate that in this new phase of the life of the Church, new leaders will continue to emerge. We look forward to partnering with clergy and laity across the Diocese as we nurture and encourage the birth of new vocations to a range of ministries in the weeks and months to come.
Those who are exploring an emerging sense of vocation may like to enrol on the Foundations for Ministry (FfM) course. The deadline for applications is 31st August, although places may be filled before then. For more information see here (https://www.chester.anglican.org/ministry/foundations-for-ministry/)
Applications for Reader and Pastoral Worker candidates can be made by Incumbents: please email email@example.com for an application pack. This needs to be returned by the end of June.
For those enquiring about ordained ministry, formal discernment remains quietly at work in the background virtually and prayerfully. Any enquirers should contact firstname.lastname@example.org for an incumbent’s introduction form as a first step.