Christian Vocation: The process of exploration
In the Diocese of Lincoln we offer clear structure and support to each person embarking on the process of exploring a sense of vocation It begins in the parish with the incumbent and the candidate exploring together early ideas or feelings of 'being called to something'. The leaflet Opportunities for Ministry will be important in these early conversations, not only in identifying the different patterns of service which operate in the Diocese, but also in working honestly through the points covered. These points are meant to help establish if there is a personal readiness to take a step forward into training for authorised and representative ministry.
After these conversations, the incumbent invites the Diocesan Director of Ordinands (DDO), whose role it is, under the Bishop, to oversee all aspects of the exploration and selection process, to the parish to meet the candidate and incumbent together. The purpose of this meeting will be to explain the exploration and selection process and to answer initial questions and concerns. The DDO and candidate then meet together alone and the candidate may be invited to work with a Vocations Adviser and eventually attend a Diocesan Assessment day. Meanwhile, the incumbent and candidate will be invited to work together to develop or continue to develop patterns for collaborative ministry.
The second stage is that of interviewing and selection, where each person who is a candidate for the Ordained Ministry or for Reader Ministry is called to give an account of themselves and 'the Hope that is in them', to use Peter's phrase.
The usual way of facilitating this is to bring a group of candidates together for the day, for each person to have interviews with lay and ordained people and for them to work on an exercise together. We work closely with the 9 selection criteria of the Ministry Division of the Archbishops' Council at this point.
We are not looking for a clerical stereotype, lay or ordained, but for people who are actively and honestly struggling with a sense of Calling by God, who can communicate their beliefs simply in their own words, who can assume, after training, responsible positions of leadership and mission within the church and who are not covering up their own need for recognition, love, absolution, spiritual or personal development, through pursuing a 'vocation'.If there is evidence that the candidate has the necessary qualities to undertake Ordained Ministry or Reader Ministry and that there are indications that his or her calling is recognised throughout different parts of the church, then one of two things may happen:
- the candidate may proceed to the Readers Course and begin training for Reader Ministry or, if they are a candidate for Ordination, they may be referred to the Bishop for sponsoring as an ordinand, prior to national selection and training.
- They may be asked to undertake a period of deeper exploration and formation with a Vocations Adviser. It is the role of the Vocations Adviser to assist the candidate explore their sense of calling more deeply by being supportive, but challenging, affirming, but provocative, encouraging, but realistic. Vocations Advisers do not provide formal reports on the candidates they work with, but are there primarily, to help the candidate to do their own thinking and reflection in preparation for or following diocesan assessment
Clear feedback will be given from the assessment day as to the areas it may be necessary for any given candidate to develop and written work will be required before further assessment.
If, on the assessment day, the diocesan interviewers and DDO cannot identify the evidence that a person is suitable for authorised ministry lay or ordained within the Diocese, then they are referred back to their home parish and not recommended to take this process further.
A model of exploring, discernment and formation for those sensing a vocation to authorised ministry, lay and ordained, in the Diocese of Lincoln.
An introduction to the process of exploring and testing out a sense of vocation to authorised ministry:
Christian Vocation: Ethos and theological rationale
Christian Vocation: Selection Criteria for Ordained Ministry
Christian Vocation: Suggestions and questions
Christian Vocation: Suggested books to read