On Saturday I attended one of a series of reflection days designed for those inquiring about ordained ministry within the Anglican Church; Diocese of Brisbane. We began by sharing a brief life sketch by way of introduction. This was followed by some reflections looking at our greatest success, our biggest sense of failure, and our awareness of moments of calling or vocation in our life. I found the reflection day quite beneficial. Although the group was relatively small, due to some technical issues, common themes were occurring in most people’s stories. There was something affirming about hearing strings of similarity among each of our life sketches.

Perhaps the most obvious was an awareness of the persistance of feelings people had with regard to a sense of being called by God toward a particular ministry within the church. I had to laugh when the facilitator had referred to this persistance as the Hound of God. When we looked over our lives we could identify consistent moments when we felt a sense of being hounded by God until a point is reached where we had to at least test this feeling outside of ourselves; hence ending up as inquirers on a reflection day.

I don’t envy the tasks of those involved in discerment, whether that be the inquirer or the Archbishop and his Examining Chaplains. From an inquirer’s perspective it takes a lot of willingness to trust others enough open up yourself and reveal parts of yourself which you would normally keep private. Also, and not speaking for the others but from my own experience, there is the battle to identify what comes from ego, or self, and what comes from God. In other words, where does our sense of calling come directly from Divine Grace and where does it stem from something about us a human beings.

This is where I think the trust and openness is hard, but vital, from an inquirer’s point of view. The Archbishop, as the instrument of unity and person ultimately responsible for ordaining people into the Church of God, through his Examining Chaplains has an equally hard task. How do they as human beings discern the Will of God in the lives of others. Of course a lot of the answer to that comes from how open inquirers are with them, and how much they are willing to reveal of their lives. The other part of the answer comes no doubt from their own (the Arch and his Chaplains) experiences of God in their lives and seeing it lived out in the lives of others.

Over the coming months there will be many opportunities through reflection days, reflection papers, interviews and ultimately selection conference, to try and put what is an external feeling out of ourselves and into the hands of others, with the help of God, to see if we are truly called my God. We will have reflections on the nature of God, the nature of the diaconate and priesthood as well as reflections on our sense of calling or vocation.

For me right now I don’t see as far as ordination. I more think about this as a process of finally putting out my sense of vocation out there for others to reflect on and comment on and see if there is a match. Then, and only then, can we talk about anything else.  

Advertisements