Calling, Vocation and Discernment

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A few times recently people have asked me about why I wanted to become a Vicar. Thing is I didn’t want to, it was just I felt God calling me to it. And to be honest I was in denial about the whole thing for quite some time. I wrote about it at various points on the blog so this is just a bit of a round up of those posts that were written when I was wrestling with it all. If you are interested in my journey to ordination, perhaps are seeking your own, or maybe just thinking about vocation and purpose, then these may or may not be interesting!

Purpose – This was written the first time I started to voice something around that sense of calling that was going on inside me. 
A Calling – Actually starting to think about ministry.
The O Word – Finally giving in and thinking about ordination
10 reasons not to be a Vicar – wrestling with it all
Life Changes – admitting defeat and seeing my Parish Priest
Meeting the DDO – approaching seeing the DDO 
Rebelling – being a rebel in the church
DDO Update –  last visit to DDO
Approaching BAP and plenty of doubt
General later post on Vocation/Calling
Lastly this is my free Guide to the Discernment Process in the CofE if you are looking into what it means to be ordained in the CofE, this looks in depth at what you might experience. Useful for other denominations or situations too but it is focussed on the CofE process.

 

 

 

What’s Your Vocation?

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So, during February the CofE is having a real focus on vocation in the church which is fab! This is what they say:

Today and throughout February the Church of England is making a new call to all its members to consider their Vocation. We all have a Vocation to discover and pursue, whether in the Church and in the World and we each have a story of our own Vocation, and our journey so far. We’ll be sharing individual stories of Vocation throughout the month from all parts of the Church.

So if you haven’t come across it yet do keep an eye on their blog which is featuring stories of people finding their calling or vocation in the church and on Twitter check out the Hashtag : #CofECalling

As you may know if you read this blog regularly, I am a big fan of encouraging vocation in the CofE and last year finished my guide to the ‘discernment process in the CofE’ which you can read for free here (or download as a PDF).

So in light of this focus I have had a look back at some of things I wrote when discerning my own vocation, which has been rather comical. All that pain, frustration, denial, and burying my head in the sand! So funny to think now that I am on the verge of getting ordained, how did that even happen?! 

I’ve written about my calling in various places across the blog but this one here was the first thing I publicly wrote in admitting I might actually be called to ministry. If you are just starting to think about it all, do give it a read…

This one, on fighting the call to ordination was written in 2010 and this on ‘10 Reasons Not to be a Vicar‘ makes me laugh. In fact I wrote a response to it 2 years later in 2012 here as well.

I think the key thing is, if you are feeling called to something, don’t ignore it. If it is really God calling you, it won’t just go away so you might as well give in and look at it (saves time and heartache in the long run!). Doesn’t have to be a big song and dance, you might want to start by just asking a few key friends to pray about it or with you. If you still feel something then start to think about approaching your Vicar or DDO.

Whatever you do, it is not an easy process, as you can read about in the discernment guide but it is totally worthwhile and rewarding. I still feel terrified about getting ordained and totally unworthy but I also know it is exactly what I should be doing. 

 

 

Blogolution

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So. It’s 2016. How did that happen? I honestly think I’m still 19 sometimes.

*sighs*

2016 is going to be a whopper of a year for us. In May I finish my job – that’s the best job I’ve ever had, seriously LOVE IT.

In June I  finish my course and then…

I GET ORDAINED.

Still have no idea how this has really happened to be honest. I’m still expecting God to appear and say ‘wait, no, sorry I’ve changed my mind’ or ‘actually it wasn’t you I wanted it was that other woman’… except so far he hasn’t, so *gulp* in 6 months time I will become Revd. Jules Middleton which is kind of terrifying.

Then, (if not before) we move house and church

and of course, I will start my curacy.

So, yeah I’m not really 19 any more, heck even 39 would be nice. And this year I feel well, I guess I feel it’s like some kind of rite of passage, or milestone, like turning 18 or leaving home, it’s definitely a  pivotal point in, not just my life, but that of my family. So cue lots of reflection (my tutors would love that, we get to reflect a lot in training). So here’s a little (well not very little) blog about what’s going to happen on the blog this year…

 

 

Pain

Saw this quote twice on Twitter today within the space of 5 mins.

Coincidence? I think not… ;)
So anyway I liked it so I made a pretty little infographic…

I love the Church of England !

So that might be a slightly strange title for a post, but it’s true. Now that isn’t to say that I agree with everything that the church does, nor does it mean I agree with everything it says, but I am rather fond of it. And the reason I am writing this now is because my love for it has just been rekindled after a slightly rocky few months, where, had it continued we might have been considering separation… Ok perhaps that’s a bit melodramatic, but it has been a difficult few months, I wrote a bit about it here and I don’t really want to dwell on it but basically I was struggling a bit with my calling, being in the CofE, and other things. I have been coming out of that and I have confirmed my place at college for September so it wasn’t all bad!

Anyway, I digress, so this week I went to the HTB Leadership Conference which was ace, and you can say what you like about HTB, (and don’t bother to do it here please) but they are doing a fantastic thing in this church that I love so much. The teaching and the speakers were just fantastic. One guy who I had not heard of before, Steven Furtick, was particularly inspiring. 

So on the second day I met up with a Vicar friend of mine at lunchtime, who asked about my progress, and I was having a bit of a moan and they sympathised and seemed to imply some similar moans. So there we were having a bit of moan about this diocese when Steven Furtick comes on to speak. His talk was called ‘Your Calling is Calling’ – I hadn’t know this in advance, and he proceeded to tell us all to stop moaning about where we are and get on with what God has called us to. My friend and I shared a few knowing glances during his session! I mean, talk about divine timing…  His talk was amazing with some really insightful stuff and very stirring.

Couple that with the Archbishop of Canterbury’s interview the day before, which gave me such amazing hope for this wonderful church of ours. That man is a legend and I’m truly excited to see how he shapes the CofE of the future…

And then add into the mix the fact that this whole thing was put on by an Anglican church, yes it has become a bit of a machine but I’m not sure how many other Anglican churches are so successful and reaching so many people with the Gospel…

and so I came away from this conference renewed with love for my church, filled up with hope for the future and so proud to be part of it. Can’t wait to get to college now!

Being in the Church of England

As I approach the next step in the ministry discernment process I think I am probably getting what is usually termed ‘cold feet’. I don’t know maybe it is that, or maybe it’s the illness worrying me, or maybe it is that I am really not sure I want to go into the Church of England. I feel very strongly about the CofE and I know that is part of my calling. I am not naive about it either, I know the kind of organisation I would be getting in to. I don’t always agree with decisions from the top, I worry about the place of women, I worry about the treatment of homosexuals, I worry about the treatment of priests in some individual circumstances. But I still feel that I need to be in it. I often say to people that a friend in ministry, said to me that I should not go into this thinking I can change the Church of England from the iniside, it will eat you up and spit you out (or something along those lines), but I do feel that God is raising people up to have an impact, people who are strong enough and prepared enough to take a stand, prepared to fight for change.

BUT.. I find myself at a point where I am really not sure this is where I want to be, there is so much bad feeling around the CofE at the mo, and I find myself thinking, why on earth would I want to be part of that? I don’t know maybe I’m feeling too tired for a fight right now, but I am really not sure…

In this weeks episode or Rev the archdeacon says to Adam: ‘young dynamic women are not exactly queuing up to joing the church you know…’ to which my husband and I chuckled as we know a few who are! But really a truly it seems like I am at the bottom of a huge hill and I am just not sure I want to climb it…

The skills of Church Leadership

So… I’m onto section F of the Selection Criteria for the Church of England: Leadership & Collaboration. I thought this would be a category I would fly through. I have had various positions of responsibility and leadership in my life, and I like to think I am a natural leader (I say that with no shred of pride, just that I recognise my God-given skills.). However I have been very definitely humbled as I am struggling with this category! Questions like ‘reflect on leadership styles’, or ‘reflect on the significance of contextual issues in leadership’ are taxing my brain! (Lesley I feel a long email coming your way..!). If anyone can point me to books in this area I would be grateful.  Anyway to start with my required reflection I have put together a list of leadership skills that would make an effective ordained minister. This is from my own reflection of church and leadership outside of the church. I would love to hear peoples thoughts and of course additions… 

1. Live out the Gospel: There is nothing worse than a minister who preaches a message of forgiveness but cannot forgive themselves.

2. Be Compassionate: There will be very needy people who come to you. Be sympathetic to their needs. Even when they are annoying, continually coming to you with the same needs, or even unwilling to help themselves.

3. Do not Judge: It is so easy to do, particularly with those who are more involved in the life of your church, on committees etc. You never know what is going on behind the scenes…

4. Be honest: I can’t stand ministers who claim everything is hunky-dory when actually their teenage kids are running a-muck and the whole congregation knows it. No one is perfect and we don’t expect ministers to be either. If you have an issue ask for help or prayer!

5. Be unflappable: I am not there yet but I know from friends in ministry that chances are some pretty odd and awful situations will come your way. Trust in God to guide you, don’t run the other way. and if you really can’t help, find someone who can.

6. Be available: When my Dad first came to our church, depsite the fact that there was a problem with our hall and at the last minute the whole service had to be shifted elsewhere (on Easter Sunday!) the Vicar welcomed my Dad and had a chat with him. He did not seem flustered even though he had every right to be. A good minister should be welcoming and approachable, not distant and aloof. (you’d be surprised how many still are!)

7.Teach and Preach: This is a huge part of the role of a priest. Don’t feel you have to appeal to your congregation, you are there to preach the Gospel, so preach it! (although at times this may be unpopular…)

8. Encourage: be an encourager to those in your congregation. They all have their own skills and gifts, so encourage them to use them. Sometimes people just need  a gentle nudge to get up and do something or to go out and help.

9. Know your Congregation: In relation to no 8. Know the people who come to your church, then you will be able to discern their skills and gifts, but also their needs. (obviously in a big church this is harder to do, but try wherever you can, all the same!)

10: Be organised: From what I already know, ministry life is full on. You need to be organised! If you need someone to do admin for you, then do! and for goodness sake delegate wherever you can (no’s 8 & 9 will help with this!)

So there you go, have I missed off anything vital?  I wonder if, in 10 years time, assuming I get into minstry, whether I would change this list at all!