Revd Andrew Knowles, Assistant Diocesan Director of Ordinands and Incumbent at St Mary’s, Camberley, shares his insight into vocation after a year spent supporting people in their vocations journey.
As an Assistant Diocesan Director of Ordinands (ADDO), I am part of the discernment process, working with those who are exploring a vocation to serve God and all people through ordained ministries. What I have learnt about vocations this year is best described by three phrases: God’s calling comes as a surprise, God’s calling is personal, and God’s calling comes from other people’s encouragement.
God’s calling comes as a surprise
My first meeting with someone exploring a vocation to ordained ministry starts with his or her arrival as a nervous visitor. They are welcomed to sit on the big comfy red sofa in my study, and offered a cup of tea or coffee to calm their nerves and inner doubts. These visitors are surprised by God’s calling. We continue to meet every six weeks, where we explore the Criteria for Selection for Ordained Ministry and they tell stories and experiences from their life. It is in the retelling of these stories that the evidence of God’s calling becomes clear. I love those moments of revelation when they see the connections between God’s calling and what He has already been doing within their lives long before they recognised that He was calling them.
God’s calling is personal
At confirmation, the Bishop says to the candidate, ‘God has called you by name and made you his own’. In Psalm 139, the psalmist describes God as one who knows us intimately. These truths are foundational as God’s calling is deeply personal and unique to each person. The nine criteria for selection is the framework we use to explore a calling and test a vocation. They are not hurdles to jump over or a role description to try to fulfil. God calls us as human beings, the emphasis on the ‘being’ and he works with the raw material as we are. Those I meet with often experience a lack of self-confidence and self-belief yet over time I have the privilege of watching them grow into His calling and grow confident in themselves.
God's calling comes from other people's encouragement
We underestimate the influence we have on those whom God is calling. All the people that I see tell me of one or two people who have been significant in their faith journey and in the discerning of their vocation. These significant people were simply encouragers, willing to invest time and creating space to have a go. I have seen vocations in my own church grow as I talk about vocations regularly, encourage people, give people opportunities to explore that calling practically and offer space to have a go. If we want a culture of vocations to flourish within our Church, everyone gets to play because everyone can be an encourager.
"If we want a culture of vocations to flourish within our Church, everyone gets to play because everyone can be an encourager."
God calls us all to be encouragers. Is God calling you to something more? Remember, God’s calling comes as a surprise, God’s calling is personal, and God’s calling comes from other people’s encouragement that is what I have learnt about vocations this year.