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‘I think God might be calling me . . .’

14 March 2014

By Huw Spanner


The Revd Margaret Dean, vocations adviser in the diocese of Norwich

My first response would be: how exciting! Talk to somebody about it - either your vicar, or a close Christian friend whose judgement you respect - and then contact your diocese, and ask who to talk to about it there.

I certainly wouldn't steer [people] down the route of ordination, because it may well be they'd make a superb educationist, or writer, or whatever it might be. People can have a very narrow view of what vocation is.

In my own experience, the shock was that God might call me to something completely different at a later stage in life, after I'd felt called to the world of education all my life, and was very happy doing what I was doing.

It was determination on the part of my vicar, who told me he thought I should be ordained. I said no, [but] he asked me the same question every year for six years running, until I said that I would at least enter into some conversations.

Adrian Smith, London School of Theology

We're called to be disciples of Christ in the context of the People of God; and, therefore, as we seek to discern what our part in the building of God's Kingdom is, there will be a personal response to that; but it's also a corporate response -others will have input. It's not just about fulfilling your life's desires, and wrapping them up in spiritual language.

I would say that you need to deepen your relationship with God, and any sense of calling needs to be affirmed by others who know you well, and especially the leaders of your local church. Calling is not just about gifts, but also about Christian character.

In one sense, God may call everybody; but the key thing in the Bible is when people respond. It's that character that says: 'Being a disciple of Jesus Christ means that I am a servant, and he is my Master.' May-be [they] have got the gifts and abilities, but, fundamentally, it's the willingness to obey that is key. Sometimes, I think, that is the bit that is missed out.

The Revd Dallas Ayling, Rector of Birkenhead Priory, Rural Dean of Birkenhead, and a deanery vocations adviser

I advise on vocations to the ministry in its broadest sense: Reader, pastor, Church Army, [and ordained]. What I want to know is the story of their journey of faith, and what it is that makes them think they're being called to some kind of ministry beyond what they've already got.

There are people I have doubts over, but you can't tell, and maybe in the selection process they grow. When David was chosen to be King of Israel, all his other brothers were presented to Samuel, while David, the youngest and most unlikely, was out in the field looking after the sheep. I'm always thinking: is this a David?

I originally went to theological college as an independent student. It was an enormous step to take: I was a single parent, and I didn't have any money, but by various means people gave money towards my training. When I left college, I didn't have a job, and it was another three years before I was accepted for ordination.

It took ten years from making enquiries to being ordained. Something in me just said that this was the right thing for me, and I couldn't let go of it. Every time I tried to explore other things, I came back to the same place.

The Revd Dr Paul Roberts, Trinity College, Bristol

We're all called to follow Jesus Christ - that is the primary call, and the most demanding call that anyone can have. And that ought to shape every single day of our life, and every single decision we make.

I don't think we should allow any other sense of call to eclipse the primacy of that call.

Somebody may well be called to train as a nurse, or an accountant, but those sorts of calling often come through a series of lots of little faithful decisions, whereas, when people decide to devote their life to serving God's people in the Church, that often is quite a big thing.

I've been in theological education on and off for 25 years, and I would say that in so far as we can talk of God calling people to do things, that call expresses itself through the make-up of their personality; and, for some people, it may well be articulated as a kind of compulsion, or a passion that they've had for a very long time; for others, it's a sense that they have to go down this path, almost despite themselves.

Give it a bit of prayerful time and see what happens. A bit further along the road, perhaps, have a go at doing something a bit different vis-à-vis your engagement with your church, and what it feels like to do something more up-front. Have ago at giving a talk, or engage in some pastoral work in the church community. God uses ordinary processes as well as extraordinary processes.

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