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The discernment process continues. I got home today to find a letter from the Archbishop inviting me to attend the Vocational Discernment Conference on the 27-29th July. The conference is an opportunity for the Arch and his examining chaplains to meet those seeking to enter into diaconate and priestly formation – and vice versa. The weekend will be a series of interviews, group discussions, and discernment exercises. This weekend, along with all the written reflections and other paper work will be used by the examining chaplains in deciding whether or not inquirers show the necessary qualities and motivation to enter ordained ministry formation or whether their strengths lie in taking on some aspect of lay ministry in the Church. Please pray for all who will be attending this conference.
I finally finished the three discernment reflections I had to submit in application to attend the Diocesan Discernment Conference coming up later in the month. I have posted links to two of them; one on The Nature of the Priesthood and the other on The Nature of God. The other I referred to in the last post is a Life Sketch and I decided that it ended up a little too personal to put on such a public forum.
I found each of the exercises suprisingly challenging, but very rewarding. It was interesting to read over them when I had finished and was surprised at some of my thoughts. It will be even more interesting to read over them in a few weeks, years time. I found myself starting and stopping these reflections on several occasions – they just never seemed to end up looking like how I meant them too. In the end the pressure was on as the date to get them in was well passed and the powers that be needed them ASAP. So in the end I was pushed to make a decision and, well there they are. You are welcome to have a look and comment on them here or send me an email if you think it is particularly personal, or if you want to accuse me of being a heritic and burn me at the stake. In the end I went with what felt right to me and not what I think people want to hear. I particularly got a lot out of my Life Sketch, I’m sure the psychologist will have fun with that one for ages.
Oh, and just a side, I was given two large yummy crabs last night. The joys of being by the beach. I’m off to eat them now for dinner.
At the moment I’m supposed to be preparing three reflections for the Diocesan Discernment Conference later in the month. I have to say it is quite the challenge. One is a Life Sketch, how does one put down in a few pages how one’s life has been shaped toward inquiring for Ordination. What do the Examining Chaplains want to know? The exercise has been quite useful and I might even finish it this side of a thesis. In doing this exercise I have learnt not only how the various parts of my life have lead me to be the person who now offers for discernment, but it has also reminded me of just how unworthy I am to be called a servnt of God. That is to say, that my life has been less than ideal. There are a number of things I’m neither pleased about nor proud of. However, it does remind me that God calls people just as they are. I guess that is the message I would like the Examining Chaplains to know; that despite how human I am, for all my frailties and faults, it is God who calls me to serve.
The second reflection is The Nature of God. Well another mammoth task to get down to 1 – 1/2 pages. Who or what is God. In doing this reflection it dawned on me how the more we try to describe the nature of God, the more we are limited by our human ability to communicate the Divine. We have draw on points of reference that we as humans can relate to. However, in so doing, we already limit our ability to describe which is in essence a spiritual encounter with the Divine. It also dawned on me that we spend far too much time feebly communicating the Divine and not enough time experiencing the Divine. It is like what I tell students when they ask me do I believe in God. I can tell them of my experiences of God but I cannot give them my experiences. What they need to do is seek out their own personal relationship with God.
The final reflection is on The Nature of the Priesthood. One I’m finding a lot easier. However, the difficulty for me seems to lie in how is a Priest different from a Religous. For there are a lot of similarities. Notwhithstanding the reality that both stem from the same aim, that is, to live in a more purposeful way our Baptismal vows to live as Discples of Christ. What then is different, perhaps its in the leadership of the Church, the taking on of the repsonsibility to pass on the traditions and mysteries of the faith.
I’m sure when I finally get these done I’ll have something more useful to say about them. In the mean time, I’m enjoying the sun and warmth here in Pormpuraaw. It won’t be long before I’m back in cooler Brisbane, but I’m looking forward to spending some time with Br Ghislain from Taize when he comes to do some school visits.
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.