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“It’s Your Calling” : Vocation Days in the Diocese of Rochester – Ernie Feasey

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Editor’s Foreword

In the bad old days, when I first became a training officer in one of the dustier corners of HM’s civil service –  shall we call it the Department of Administrative Affairs to protect the guilty? – training was part of the Supply Department, along with office furniture and stationery. The training department would decide what courses to offer, and then invite other departments to send candidates in a steady stream to be ‘done’, rather as for flu jabs. It took another ten years, but we got there eventually: training was moved to the Personnel Department, and became tailored to individual need. The mantra went (and probably still does)

  1. Identify the individual’s training need
  2. Design appropriate training and offer to candidate
  3. Monitor the effectiveness of the training and then, you guessed it, back to [1].

 

I have never been employed by the Church of England or any diocese, but I really think a revolution has taken hold, possibly (if our information is correct) led by the Diocese of Rochester. The logo gives the hint – green shoots are to be positively encouraged, and the focus is now first and foremost on the person being trained, ‘Growing Your Ministry‘. Bravo Rochester!

Ernie Feasey will be known to many of you as ukviewer or minidvr, an active participant on social media, particularly twitter and facebook, where he contributes regularly to discussions on the future (and past) of Christianity and the Church of England. Here he has kindly described ‘It’s Your Calling‘.


It’s Your Calling Day at St Nicholas Church, Rochester

I attended the Vocations Day at Rochester on 15 February 2014 (0930-1630), with 11 other candidates from churches across the diocese.  This day was unlike any other that I have attended, and I have been to two or three, albeit in a different diocese, over the last 5 years or so.

 

The day was organised by the Rev Mark Griffin, who oversees Ministry and Vocation across the diocese as well as being a Parish Priest in Sevenoaks.  He was most ably supported by a number of the Deanery Vocations advisers including Marcel  (Dartford),  Jim  (Rochester),  Suzanne  (Gillingham), Sue  (Findsbury), Nigel  (Penge) and  Sussane (Current LLM Cohort).

 

The format for the day was organised around the Eucharist in four sessions:

 

Session 1:Journeying,  was preceded by the Opening Worship, which was the Gathering up to the Epistle.  The reading  was Isaiah 6:1-8.  The story of Isaiah being called and sent.  God having reassured him that his unworthiness had been forgiven by a live coal applied to his lips by a Seraphim, and the Lord asking “who shall I send” and Isaiah’s response “Here I am Lord,  send me”.

 

Ÿ  Mark developed Isaiah’s story and explored the word journey in some depth. We shared results  from our reflections as a group  our individual journies of faith – the journey which resulted in our attendance today.

 

Session 2 – entitled The call in the bible was preceded by worship from the Gospel reading, John 15:12-17, the passage where Jesus tells the disciples that they no longer servants, but friends, as he has made known to them his Fathers’ business.

 

Ÿ  Mark illustrated the nature of a call using passages from both the old and new testaments. Sue than developed it further by describing her own background with a creative e description of particular stages on her journey that stood out as “moments of Grace” (my description) where the call moved on, changed or adapted, often in unexpected directions.  This was sometimes connected with life events, but at other times due to an interaction or event that just changed everything.   We worked through this ourselves individually than shared some or our own journeys with our larger group.

 

Session 3 – entitled Church, which church? dealt with the nature of vocations and call and change.  We had input from Marcel, Jim and Nigel sharing their stories. Each emphasised the privilege that they felt to be working with vocations..  Vocation and the call to serve was covered in great depth and how it can develop and change over time.  Jim in particular expanded on the theme of change and how the rate of change, which is perceived by some as slow, is actually fast compared to earlier times.  The Cof E is in the context of risk taking and moving out of churches into the community.  There were excellent examples provided from Marcel in what is happening  Dartford and Nigel in his unique role as a stipended Lay Reader leading a  parish in Penge.  Imagination, innovative thinking and risk taking are building a different type of church to the traditional model.  It seems that adaptability and listening for the Holy Spirit are a key part of their ministry and the churches are growing.

 

Session 4 – entitled ‘Where do we go from here’   Was devoted to explaining the vocations  process within Rochester  diocese and the way that discernment,  training for and deployment of Lay Ministry had changed and was changing.  The Basis was Licensed Lay Ministry (replacing Reader) which consists of the 1st year foundation course for a Bishops’ certificate in Christian Ministry, which provides outlets to continue onto LLM over a further 2  years. It can be designed or streamed to a particular ministry that individuals felt called to.  The foundation  course equips individuals for a Christian Ministry role in their parish, which combined with a number of short courses may be used to focus that ministry in a specific direction.  This was a comprehensive package and the  contributions from Susanne, Sue and Nigel on Lay Ministry and Mark, Jim and Suzanne on Ordained Ministry (in groups) provided lots of opportunities for inquiry.  We were assured that this day will be followed up by the appropriate deanery Vocations Advisor in the near future.

 

The Eucharist than continued from sharing the peace, through Communion to the blessing.  A powerful shared experience as individuals in turn, administered the host and the wine to each other.

 

The overall day had the feeling of a prayerful, reflective event. It gave comprehensive coverage and exploration together of our understanding of vocation and a call to service in some form in the context of our own parish,  local and particular to each of us.   The organisation provided space and time for reflection, accompanied by appropriate music as well as lively worship.  Our singing unaccompanied was very much in tune and surprisingly good.  I felt comfortable being among fellow travellers on a exploration which might take us in different directions, but might also be shared as we move into a common training cohort in the future.  Something to look forward to.

 

I believe that Mark and the team should be commended on the way the day was organised and run and I for one didn’t have anything pertinent to add on how it could be done better.

 

Reflection:  What did I get from the day?

 

It seems to me that the day was another occasion of Grace (my words for special, memorable experiences of God’s sharing love).  I went with an open mind, I came away refreshed and encouraged enormously. This time around, the Church means business when dealing with inquiries from those exploring a vocation.

 

I also have a better picture of what is involved and a possible pathway towards the future.   I envisage discussing completing the Foundation level Certificate in Christian Ministry, which may or may not lead to Licensed Lay Ministry.  But I  note the ability to complete a range of short courses for specific, targeted ministry roles.   I feel that this might be a combination that is a possible fit for where the parish might discern a specific role for me to fill in due course.

 


The illustration is courtesy of Soup Art Designs.

 

 

 

 

 

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