The Revd Liz Brown (Acting Director of Ordinands & Vocations) looks back at a recent and well-received Vocations Day...

What does a call from God feel like? That was the question occupying the 30+ people who attended the annual Vocations Day at St Luke’s, Birchwood, Lincoln on Saturday, 4th May 2019. The day was designed to allow people who believe God could be calling them to something new and deeper to meet with others, share their experiences and hear about some of the possible ministries available in the Church of England. It was also a perfect opportunity to introduce the Revd Sonia Barron, who will take over as Diocesan Director of Ordinands (DDO) in August.

From the outset we hoped to make it clear that when we talk about vocations we don’t have a mental picture of a big iced bun with priesthood as the cherry on the top. The wide variety of ministries open to people is something we haven’t always been good at communicating, so this day was put together with the intention of being about vocation, rather than specifically about ordination.

We heard from people whose vocations had led them in many different directions and included those who were certain their calling was to a lay ministry. Dr Sally Buck, Warden of Lay Ministry, and the Revd Liz Brown, interim DDO, shared something of their own respective discernment journeys, one to a conviction that they were called to minister from within a lay context and the other to ordained ministry. We also heard from a distinctive deacon, an authorised lay minister, a priest who had experienced ministry as an ordained local minister and as a stipendiary minister, and from somebody who was just about to go to a Bishop’s Advisory Panel, describing going through the discernment process in our diocese. We heard from an oblate of an Anglican Benedictine community, who discussed the possibility of closer connection with a religious community or the religious life itself. There was ample time for asking questions and also time for people to get into smaller groups and discuss their own experiences.

For many people attending the day, the opportunity to hear from others in a similar situation was particularly valuable. As we’re a diocese of small communities and parishes many people have never met somebody else who also feels that God might be calling them, and it can be rather unnerving. Finding there were other people asking questions like “What? Me?” and “But surely I’m not good enough?” or “What if I’m imagining it?” can be very reassuring and it makes it easier to be brave enough to say how we feel without worrying that we’ll look silly.

For many people considering a licensed ministry, the training involved can be a source of anxiety. “How long will it last?”, “Will I cope?”, “It’s been years since I did any study”, “I’m not really very academic”. The Principal of Lincoln School of Theology, the Revd Dr Sally Myers, is used to dealing with concerns like these, and after lunch she led an excellent session which showed everybody that theological learning can be non-threatening and enjoyable.

The value of the day was most obvious in the change of atmosphere as it progressed. At the beginning there was some apprehension and nervousness as people wondered at what to expect, but by the end of the day there was a relaxed and positive atmosphere in the room, with several people asking what their next steps should be.

Since the Vocations Day there have been several enquiries from people who now feel able to explore the sense of calling they’re experiencing. It can be scary but it’s also the beginning of an amazing adventure and we hope the day made that clear.

If anybody reading this thinks that adventure might be beckoning them, why not contact the DDO’s office via email or by calling 01522 50 40 29 or 07701 36 44 19). We’re always happy to chat and there’s no obligation to do any more than that if it doesn’t feel to be the right time.