What do we mean by vocations?
Vocation is a difficult word. It can sound to many of us like a long-term professional undertaking of several years’ duration. And for those who wish to pursue ordination, a long term commitment is certainly required. But vocations can also have a different shape if we think of them as gifts or calling.
See the helpful helpful video above - from The Fund for Theological Education
Vocations, gifts and calling
We all possess some God-given gifts. But often we don’t fully recognise how gifted we are because these gifts have been with us for a long time and it is easy to take them for granted. Or they may have been hidden in the shadows for some time. But there is in all of us something that people recognise and come to us for. And their desire to do this is acknowledgement that we have something special that they don’t see in others. In other words, they recognise our gifts.
Our unique self
The wonder of being human is our unique quality. Our unique make up comes from a combination of many factors, some that are given at birth and the rest from our life experiences, education, and the skills and gifts that we gain and develop on the spiritual journey. We are all one-offs. And therefore by the same token we all have a unique gift to offer to God.
There are a myriad of gifts and callings in the midst of all churches. We may be a practical person, good with our hands, who can get on and make and fix things. There are those with great organisational skills, whom we all turn to when an event needs arranging. There are leaders, speakers, teachers, the artistic who make the music, write, provide the artwork in the church. These are but a small sample of the commonly found gifts within most churches in addition to the more spiritually orientated gifts.
However, it’s not always easy to recognise our individual gifts until we sit down and give this some thought. And then we may find it acknowledging the real gifts that God has given us and then take these further, developing and applying them in our spiritual walk.
‘Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms’. 1 Peter 4:10
Age is no barrier
And it doesn’t matter how old you are. From young person to retired, we all have gifts to offer and can all serve. It is always good to remember that the Lord has no arms and legs in this world other than ours.
How can we discern these gifts? And how can we use them for God? After all, there are many ways. Some will be called to ordained ministry in one of its forms; some to lay ministry as a reader. For others, there will be lay roles within the church. Or others may be called to God’s work in their daily lives. What you do already may be your vocation. John van Sloten states, ‘There is no job so boring that it would disinterest God, because there is no person whom God does not love and see.’
There are a number of options available if you feel drawn to explore the subject of your gifts and calling.
1) The first stage is to give it in prayer. Here is a simple prayer to start the process:
‘Lord, help me to understand more clearly my gifts and calling. Bring the right people and situations to me to guide me in discerning a way forward. Amen.’
There are numerous other ideas to try:
2) Talk it over with others. Discernment is not a solitary process. Talk with a trusted friend, a prayer partner or spiritual accompanier if you have one, or talk with your priest. This will help to give you some idea of a general direction.
3) What are your strengths, passions and gifts? Ask yourself this question and gain the opinion of those you know. There are likely to be clues here.
4) Push doors. See what happens as you move forward with certain ideas. ‘Have a go!’
5 Keep a journal of what you are noticing.
6) Recognise that discernment is a personal and individual business. There is no foolproof process and sometimes the unexpected can be a part of the discernment journey.
The Vocations Team
The diocese has a vocations team who are there to assist individuals to discern their vocation. Look at the Diocese of Derby website and find a vocations advisor that you feel is right for you. You can then arrange to have a general informal discussion with that person, if you want to pursue the idea of vocation, and discover what that means for you.
There are Exploration Days and other relevant courses that are held from time to time in the diocese for those wishing to proceed further.
Also, check out the Church of England website on Vocations for further information
Introductory books on vocation and calling
Called or Collared – an Alternative Approach to Vocation – Francis Dewar (SPCK, 2000)
God of Surprises – Gerard W Hughes (Darton Longman and Todd Ltd, 2008)
How to Find Your Vocation- a Guide to Discovering the Work You Love – John Adair (Canterbury Press, 2002)
The Person Called You – Bill Hendricks (Moody Publishers, 2014)
Every Job a Parable – John van Sloten (Hodder and Stoughton, 2017)