Vocation & Discernment in the CofE

A week or so ago I was interviewed by the Church Times about vocations in the Church of England, and to be more specific the discernment process. The lovely people at CT have made the piece available outside their paywall, so if you are interested in what it might be like exploring a call to ordination, do give it a read, here.

And while I’m here, another short plug, if you are looking at the discernment process, I wrote a free guide to it all here on the blog. You can either read it online or download it to enjoy at your own leisure ;) 

‘Becoming Reverend’ by Matt Woodcock // Book review

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I’ve not met Matt Woodock, but I suspect he’s one of those instantly-likeable types. His writing is funny, honest and real, and not at all what you’d expect from a Vicar. Which is nice, because it makes me realise I am clearly not the only odd shaped one in the church of England.

‘Becoming Reverend’ is Matt’s diary of his journey from getting selected to train for ministry in the CofE, through struggling to become a Father and attempting to reconcile his party-loving football-filled lifestyle to ordination and parenthood. It is laugh out loud funny in places, but also moving and humbling as Matt’s outrageous honesty and witty self-deprecation take you along with him in his journey.

Having gone through the same process of selection and training, and feeling many of the same sentiments as Matt about ministry and the CofE (not always positive) this book really struck a chord with me. Like him I am not your average Radio 4 listening, academic, safe, ‘normal’ Vicar and agree that encouraging people into Christian leadership who ‘have an infectious, living faith and can relate Jesus to the ordinary working man and woman, should be the highest priority’.

As he notes:

I don’t feel called to fit neatly into the way church has always been done. I’m called to be a pioneering agent of change. I’m praying that God will find me the right kind of boss.

Me too. And the thing is people need to read this and understand it, both inside the church and out.

However this is not just a book for churchy types, Matt also writes about his and wife Anna’s battle to parenthood, through IVF, hormones, medication, lows and highs, whilst life attempts to carry on as normal. Egg harvesting, sperm donation, relationship tensions and tears are the norm for many people going through the IVF process and Matt’s honest but funny account of it will strike a chord with many. For Matt this is also coupled with dealing with his beloved Aunt succumbing to cancer, all on top of training to be a Vicar. One of those would be enough for anyone and reading Matt’s journey through it all is inspiring. Through it we see that it’s not just his faith that gets him though, or his wife, but he talks about his (amusingly titled) ‘Morning Glory’ group too. A bunch of fellow ordinands who pray, laugh and cry together, supporting each other through their ups and downs and it just highlights that we are all supposed to be in community. Down the pub, at church, in Iifes struggles, we need people around us – in any walk of life.

Matt also reminds us that we need to laugh. So many of us live lives that are way too busy, too exhausting and too full, to stop and laugh. Matt seems to find the funny in all situations which is an absolute gift.

For me personally, a couple of lines stand out in the book – perhaps because I could have written it about myself – and it sums up so much of who Matt seems to be:

And yet. God loves his church. He sees possibilities and opportunities everywhere. Deep down I know he calls me to do the same. It’s terrifying (but also quite comical) that he wants me to help breathe new life into it…

So, in summary, I’ll be a force for positive change in the Church of England, but could end up defrocked by my second year.

This book is inspiring, challenging, humbling and very funny. Go get it! Out now from Church House Publishing, priced £9.99.

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The Year Ahead…

So, I have a year before I
go to college for ordination training. It was my choice, I have blogged about
that before. But I feel that I have been given this year by God and above all I
don’t want to fill it with my own crap, but just with what he is asking me to
do.

Last year I worked
voluntarily and part time for my church and it was great. Great in that I
learned a lot but great in that it allowed me space to spend time seeking God, to
grow my relationship with him, to find out where I was going and what I was
supposed to be doing. Most days when I wasn’t working I had plenty of time to
seek him in prayer him each day. Such an amazing  luxury and I know I didn’t use it all as best
as I could, but it was just wonderful to have that time. Now, I know that this year
(Sept 2012-Sept 2013) is the last time I will have some ‘free time’ for a
while. Next September I will embark on studying for ordained ministry and once
that begins, I will be pretty busy. There will be 3 years training, then 4
years curacy, then into full time ministry (well that’s the plan but of course
it may all go out the window, which knowing God would not surprise me in the
least…) But all being well it seems like it might be some years and I just
won’t have the time that I have had to be seeking God and exploring ideas as I
can at the moment.  So I want to make the
most of this time. And most of all, I love
Jesus and I just want to know him more, I want to see more of his kingdom, to
see more people coming to know him and see people’s lives being transformed
like ours were – freely we have received now freely I want to give…

I’ve prayed so much about
this year. And it’s funny because it’s so unlike me not to want to get on with
studying right away, not to want to throw myself into it immediately, but I
feel so peaceful about that the decision to have this year out, that I know it’s
of God. A friend asked me this week if a little bit of me didn’t wish I was
starting right now, but no, actually it doesn’t!

In reality this isn’t just
about a year, it’s decisions for life, but I know I have a year before I start
college to really focus on some of these things so that’s where I’m starting.
Who knows at the end of the year God may have other plans for me, but for now I
start with this year. The year before college.

So what will it entail…?

There have been so many
things that have come up in prayer but above all I feel ‘it’s time to get
serious’. It’s all being well thinking and talking about wanting to see more of
God, but sometimes you just have to shut up, 
step out and get on with it. And that’s what I intend to do. A dear
friend of ours left our church recently and he was someone I felt inspired and
led by. He had a big impact on my life and I have so much to thank him for. My
life will not be the same having worked and spent time with him. But the last
few months I have felt like I’ve floundered a bit. (Other things have happened
too, which I have blogged about elsewhere). I’ve been wondering who to turn to now
for advice and for spiritual guidance. I’ve felt a bit lost as to what my
purpose is in my role at work, and in my life but still so hungry to know more
of God and so desperate to be in his presence and led by his Holy Spirit . So,
last week I shared all this with my husband. And in a total reversal of our
usual relationship (must be God…) he just cut to the heart of it all and said
something like this: Jules you have been put in a position of leadership, you
need to lead. You are more than capable of doing that and doing it well. What
is there to stop you? He is also now doing some work for the church and as he
pointed out we are both now in a position of being able to see the things we
desire actually come about. It was like the skies had parted and the sun came
out! Suddenly I knew what it was I should be doing. And the thing is I knew it
all along I just was being fearful. Well I’m probably still fearful but I know
that God will equip me. I know he has put me here for such a time as this, for
his purposes and I just have to step into them! He has made the path ahead for
me…

As a Christian we all have a
calling to be Jesus to those around us. For each of us that looks very different,
for some it is a quiet behind the scenes serving and loving, for others it’s
standing on a street corner preaching the gospel, for some it’s being a
Christian at work and making the right moral decisions, and for others it’s a
more out there, defiant, in your face kind of thing – well that’s me anyway ;)
and right now I know that for me I need to be that, an ‘out there’ kind of
Christian, not afraid of my faith, but so secure in the knowledge and love of
God that I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. I know I do not
need to fear man, I just need to get serious and get on with what he’s asking
me to do!!

In my prayer time I have
felt 3 scriptures being given to me for this year and they are:

 Do you see what this means—all these pioneers
who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get
on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat,
no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus,
who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he
never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he
could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right
alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that
story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your
souls!

Hebrews 12:1-4 the Message

 Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s
good pleasure to give you the kingdom.

Luke 12:32 NKJV

 As you go, proclaim this message:
‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’
Heal the sick, raise the
dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received;
freely give.

Mathew 10:7-8

 
These excite me so much!! I
have prayed about this a lot and this is what I think this year looks like to
me:

1: Seeking God daily. In
prayer and quiet time.  For me but also
for the world around me

– I will just spend time in
his presence, just to know him more… I can’t wait!

– My daily questions will
be, ‘what do you want me to do today? What opportunity have you got for me
today?’

– I will always offer to
pray for the sick. I will not turn down an opportunity that God gives me
(help…!) I will be a blessing to those around me.

– I want to be Jesus to
those around me. To be an ENCOURAGER.

2. My family

Jesus is and will be at the heart of our
home. We will, as a family love him together and show that love to others. I
will love them, encourage them, pray with them and nurture them.
3. In relation to ministry,
I want to seek out people doing all kinds of more contemporary ministry. I want
to get ideas, look at what others are doing, learn from them, get prayed for by
them!

– I want to seek out people
who have amazing spirit led ministries and go where the Holy spirit is leading.

– I want to gather others
who are hungry for God and seek him together. And in those that aren’t I want
to fan the flame. In reality I don’t need the above, we can seek the Holy
Spirit together but it’s good to get inspired!!

We had a hashtag last year and this I will continue to use #thereismore because there is SO much more to Gods kingdom than I have experienced and that is what I long for…

I will see more of Gods kingdom this
year!! On earth as it is in heaven… And I will be all that God has made me to
be….

Just on a last note I will also be blogging this journey, but to avoid confusion (mainly in my part) I will be doing that elsewhere – I will post the address once its finalised…)