What should I do if I believe God is calling me to ministry within the Church of England?
First of all, speak to people you trust and who know you well, and listen to what they have to say. Make sure you speak to your parish priest or chaplain. Clergy are used to helping people find their vocation, and they will assist you in beginning to discern your sense of calling. They may also suggest ways in which you might nurture and strengthen your Christian faith and understanding. Try to be open to their suggestions, even if they take you outside your comfort zone.
The next step
Once you have a sense of what vocation God might be calling you to, you are ready for the next step. If you would like to explore commissioned ministry as a SPA (Southwark Pastoral Auxiliary), licensed ministry as a Reader, pastoral minister, Licensed Lay Pioneer or Evangelist, or ordained ministry as a deacon or priest, you are required to go to a Vocations Forum.
For other lay ministries, please contact the Deputy Director of Discipleship and Lay Ministry, the Revd Dr Raewynne Whiteley (contact details at the bottom of the page), for more information.
Please note that there are age limits on some forms of ministry:
- Candidates for nationally deployable, full-time, stipendiary priestly ministry must be 57 years or younger at the point of entering training (if doing a three-year course), or 58 years of younger at the point of entering training (if doing a two-year course).
- Candidates for locally deployable, part-time, non-stipendiary ministry must be 62 years or younger at the point of entering training (if doing a three-year course), or 63 years of younger at the point of entering training (if doing a two-year course).
- Candidates for Reader ministry must be 62 years or younger at the point of entering training.
Your parish priest or chaplain can book you on a Vocations Forum by e-mailing Sue Stewart, the Vocations Department Administrator (Contact details at the bottom of the page).
These Forums usually take place at Trinity House, near London Bridge, although during the Coronavirus pandemic they are being held online over Zoom.
At a Forum you will have an opportunity to talk and listen to others who also believe that God may be calling them, to reflect on what the Bible says about ministry, and to think about your own journey of faith so far. Many find the Vocations Forums lively and engaging and a useful opportunity to help discern their sense of calling and to find out more about the vocational discernment process.
What happens next?
At the end of the Forum, you will be asked if you would like to continue to explore your vocation. If you decide to go ahead, you will be assigned a Vocations Advisor who will work with you in discerning your vocation further and make a recommendation as to whether you should proceed to the next stage. The process is then slightly different depending on whether you are considering lay ministry or ordained ministry.
Lay ministry discernment process
Once the Forum is over, you will be assigned a Vocations Advisor who will contact you and arrange a time to meet. Over the next few months you will have a number of meetings with your Advisor who will help you to discern your calling further. This may include conversation, reading, and Bible study.
At this end of this time, you will meet with a selection panel to decide if it is appropriate to continue the training process. If you are accepted, the Deputy Director of Discipleship and Lay Ministry will put you in touch with an appropriate person to guide you from this point. This will depend on the type of ministry you are exploring.
For more information on the discernment process for lay ministry, see the Lay ministries pages.
Ordained ministry discernment process
As with lay ministry, after attending a Vocations Forum you will be assigned a Vocations Advisor to help you through the next stage of the discernment process, who will meet you a number of times over the next three or four months to help you to discern your calling further. This may include conversation, reading, written work, and placements in other churches or contexts.
At this end of this time, your Vocations Advisor will submit a report recommending whether or not you continue with the process. If the recommendation is for you not to continue, you will be offered further support to help you reconsider your vocation, and how you might best move forward.
If the recommendation from your Vocations Advisor is that you continue with the process, you will be referred to the Diocesan Director of Ordinands (DDO). They will allocate you to a Director of Ordinands, who will work with you though the process from this point.
For more information on the discernment process for ordained ministry, see the Ordained ministries pages.