Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed…
1 Corinthians 12:1
I am the chair of the Commission on Ministry (COM) here in our diocese. Most folks think the COM is the gatekeeper for the ordination process, but in fact our charge is much broader. Our official role is to advise and assist the Bishop in “the determination of present and future opportunities and needs for the ministry of all baptized persons.” So our work is to help all members of the church discern their call and what they need to fulfill that urging from God.
This work begins with Loving the Questions, our process to help members of our diocesan household listen for God’s call. The name of that program is so right: This in-depth program, led by The Rev. Jenny Gregg and Mr. Craig Hammond, is about delving into the questions that arise around call, and learning to love the gifts that come from exploring them. This year I give thanks that enrollment in Loving the Questions has exploded; whereas in past years we have had eight to ten participants, this year we have 28 folks discerning God’s call for their lives. And only a quarter of those explorers have so far expressed a call to ordained ministry. I am excited that so many are committed to discerning God’s call and how they will respond. It is a sign of the new growth happening now, even in the midst of the challenges of the pandemic. Some of the questions that participants explore include:
o What does it mean to be called by God?
o How can we be sure of what God wants us to do?
o How can we be sure that we are not mistaking our own desires for God’s call?
o What does it mean if we don’t want to do what God would have us do?
o What attitudes of ours get in the way of hearing Gods call?
As we enter a new church year and soon a new calendar year, I urge each of you to consider these questions. What might God be calling you to? How are you fulfilling God’s call in your vocation? In your family life? In your church? Some of you might feel called to ordained ministry, and I am grateful for that; but still more of you may hear a call to other kinds of service. All those calls are valid, and valuable. And here’s one more V: they are vital to God’s Kingdom. We need folks doing all kinds of work to help our churches and our society thrive. St. Paul certainly understood that. The 12th chapter of his first letter to the Corinthians is all about how we should honor and distinguish our various calls.
I love the work of the COM because of the privilege of walking beside folks who are discerning God’s call—I love the questions we ask, and the gifts that are nurtured as a result. I consider it a privilege to help others discern the whisperings of the Holy Spirit, and to witness the good that flows from that exploration. I have come to learn that God has a call for each of us. It is our sacred work to hear the call, and to decide how we will respond.
If you would like help listening for God, talk to your priest. She or he will probably be delighted to explore the questions with you. And please consider joining the next class of Loving the Questions, beginning next fall. May God give you clarity and wisdom as you listen.