THESE two short books are attractively produced and are accessible and helpful guides for those seeking to encourage the vocations of others and also those discerning vocation in themselves.
The Great Vocations Conversation is aimed at ministers who have both the duty and the desire to nurture vocations among those whom they perceive God to be calling. The book is designed to be read one chapter per month, using the material to inspire and support conversations with people who are discerning vocation. The material is based on Bible passages and reflections from contemporary personal stories. It also contains suggested questions and prayers.
The book was helpful in advocating a fresh approach to vocations discernment and, in particular, flagging up the dangers of unconscious bias. If ministers can find the discipline to make a point of reading a chapter of this book each month, they will find it much easier to keep vocation at the forefront of their minds over a whole year. And this will create a stronger habit of keeping on the lookout for those whom God is calling.
The authors, Andrew Watson and Magdalen Smith, draw on their own extensive experience of working alongside those discerning vocation in the Church of England, and this experience is formative in the excellent advice the book contains.
Life is for Giving is aimed at anyone who is discerning vocation — both within and without the Church. It is clearly structured and acts as a kind of workbook, prompting biblical and personal reflection.
I found it helpful to be encouraged to look backwards over one’s life, besides projecting forward. It was good to think that even the times in our lives which we feel we have “wasted” — especially those of us not in the first flush of youth — may have had purpose, and might still have purpose in the future. It was also helpful to be encouraged to include peers and those who know us well in discerning God’s purpose for our lives.
Rider is an experienced minister, and writes in a clear and compelling style. His message is both open and directive. I would recommend the book to all Christians seeking to discern what God is calling them, in particular, to do and to be.
The Revd Martine Oborne is Vicar of St Michael’s, Chiswick, in London.
The Great Vocations Conversation: A year of inspiration and challenge for ministers
Andrew Watson and Magdalen Smith
Church Times Bookshop £7.20
Life Is For Giving: A toolkit for exploring your calling
Church Times Bookshop £3.60