Glynis Beazley, Diocesan Vocations Adviser, reflects on the importance of timing to vocation.
I have been at the Diocese as Vocations Adviser for about 6 months. The time has flown as I have raced around the place meeting people and getting my head around the role. The people I have met have been wonderful – from the clergy, Church staff and those who are exploring vocations. At least two of the clergy I went to meet had to be extracted from the toddler groups at their Church - clearly enjoying the Lego. It is a great privilege to meet those who are sensing a call ministry and to hear the most inspiring stories of their journeys of faith whilst drinking tea.
I have learnt exciting things on the way including, not least, a better knowledge of the Surrey highways a deeper understanding of the wide range of ministries in which one can serve the Church or beyond it and the willingness in others to nurture and encourage those called.
We are hearing from many sources that the challenge to the Church is that there are more clergy retiring than are being replaced. There are guidelines and targets of course, but a calling to ministry is not always as simple as that. It takes time, sometimes a long time – that time when you feel a calling and you run a mile in the opposite direction, like Jonah. It takes time to be sure that God is really calling you, like Samuel who had to check several times, and it takes time to get over the shock of being called before saying “Yes” as Mary did when the angel appeared to her.
"It can be frustrating that our timing does not always coincide with God’s timing. We’re pushing on the doors and they are not opening, or the doors are wide open and beckoning us in but we are holding back."
The readings this week have all been about waiting and preparing and being ready which fits very well with vocations. 2 Peter 3 reminds us “while you are waiting for these things, strive to be found by him at peace, without spot or blemish; and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation.”
And in Mark 1, John the Baptist quotes from Isaiah “prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight”
It can be frustrating that our timing does not always coincide with God’s timing. We’re pushing on the doors and they are not opening, or the doors are wide open and beckoning us in but we are holding back. Timing and planning governs so much of what we do. Especially at this time of year when, if only we had just another week with no meetings or commitments, we would be able to get our heads around planning for Christmas. But everyday life continues despite the added burden of the approaching festive season. As if that’s not enough, the Diocesan office move has added yet another layer of organisation and competition for head space, not to mention storage space (don’t go there)
"Vocation is about knowing you are in the right place at the right time – whether Ordained Ministry, Lay Ministry or in a secular role."
There are some things we can prepare for – such as an office move and Christmas for we know they’re going to happen. I was astonished when the pictures from the walls in our department at the old office were divvied up back in October. It’s never too early to plan ahead for things that we know about and it was a good lesson learnt. However there are other things that we cannot plan for. I wonder how Mary and Joseph planned for their trip to Bethlehem. They knew they had to go and I guess they knew the baby was likely to be born whilst they were gone, but it was difficult to plan just when it would be and just what they would need to take with them. Certainly not the bewildering amount of clobber that we haul around these days for even the most modest outing with the little ones. So, what about a calling to ministry? Can we prepare and can we be ready? The answer is, probably not. But there are things we can do to be open to God’s call when it comes. Sometimes, we have to be brave enough to ask what God wants of us but more often we have to be honest with ourselves about that nudge we feel or suggestion made to us by someone else: “Have you thought about…”
If you are brave enough to take the next step and then go on to the discernment process, don’t imagine all your troubles will be over. In fact, there will be many challenges and discomforts along the way, but all the clergy, ordinands and enquirers I have met all say that the joy and fulfilment of knowing that you are in the right place at the right time is wonderful and they wouldn’t have it any other way. Vocation is about knowing you are in the right place at the right time – whether Ordained Ministry, Lay Ministry or in a secular role. I believe that God wants the very best for us and by his grace we can play a part in sharing the Good News by getting ready to celebrate again the great stories of his birth.