I am so far behind with this blogging malarkey. My first ordination blog, about my second ‘chat with the vicar’ was posted back at the start of May. The second blog about my first meeting with the DDO came at the end of July. Since then, I’ve had another chat with the vicar, a couple of meetings with the DDO, and have attended the first two sessions of a vocations course. I’ve got some catching up to do.
Between the meetings, I’ve also spent a fair bit of time reading and thinking and praying (sometimes all at the same time). Today’s blog is going to steer away from the meetings, and shine a light on the time I’ve had myself to look through things and to ponder.
A pretty useful first port of call is the booklet, ‘Ministry in the Church of England’. This has been a great foundation. And I’m continuing to write stuff down, and stick stuff in, in my little green notebook. I imagine I’ll be onto the second notebook before long! It’s just useful having a place where I can jot down stuff in meetings, and also keep a sort of ongoing journal of my own thoughts and discoveries.
My last meeting with the DDO acknowledged that there was a call to be explored. So exploration was the next step. The Ministry in the Church of England booklet posed four useful questions under the heading ‘What are the marks of a vocation?’. It was to these questions that I initially turned.
- Do you have an internal sense of call? Well, I’ve already said that, yes, I do. But in a way it would be nice if it was a little clearer. I still have little idea of the details of that to which I’m called. (Reminds me of the phrase from that song by Ben Cantalon, ‘I know that you will give enough light, for the next step…’) I feel there’s a call to the priesthood, but can’t really say more than that. Parish ministry is the most obvious, but certainly not the only option. I should add, though, that currently, I’m feeling pretty stagnant about my Christian life, and so am questioning myself and any perception of a calling. I don’t want this blog to convey the impression that I’m just sailing gracefully through these waters… It’s not all plain sailing.
- Has your sense of call been recognised by others? For this, I turned to Facebook. I posted, ‘So; chatting with the vicar later about ordination… Feel free to pray’. And in response, I got 42 likes, and a whole host of comments, unanimously positive. So I guess that’s a good start. Conversations, both before and after this process ‘began’, have also served to point me in this direction, or to confirm that this is a good direction to head in.
- Is your sense of call realistic? Basically meaning, could I honestly do it? Of course, there’s that phrase, ‘God doesn’t call the equipped, He equips the called’. But is it realistic to think that I could enter the priesthood? I suppose the responses on Facebook are an encouraging start, but that’s not the whole story, is it? Because they don’t necessarily know all the arguments against, but I do. And yet, the examples of calling in the Bible (and I’ll come back to some of them in another post) show God calling people who are flawed. They’re not even always willing to do it, but He calls anyway. So I kind of feel like responding, in the words of the baptism service, ‘with the help of God, I will’. I wrote this response in my notebook: “On a good day (with a following wind), yes 🙂 It would be a stark change of pace from now, but that’s true of almost any ‘real job’. And I’d have to be much more disciplined about work, given I’d be largely ‘independent’. But it’s remarkable what God can achieve through us if we allow Him.”
- Is your sense of call informed? Do I know what I’m letting myself in for. And I suppose I do. Obviously, Mum having been ordained gives a pretty good insight. But I’ve known a fair number of priests, some really quite well. I know that the job is sometimes grim. The parishioners are sometimes horrible, and the mess the people get themselves and others into can be pretty spectacular. I’m no more a fan of committee meetings than the next guy. And the burdens to be borne are heavy indeed. So I think I’m fairly informed. That’s not to say nothing would ever surprise me in ministry. But I don’t think I’d be going into it blind.
And actually, that was a really useful place to start thinking a bit more intentionally and directedly about the whole thing. And I’m going to wrap this blog post up there. Partly because it’s just gone 11, and I need my sleep, but also partly because I don’t think it’s particularly useful to cram everything into one blog post (regardless of how much catching up I still have to do!).