Some of the most beloved and moving services to be held during the Diocesan year relate to welcoming people into their new ministry within the Church.
The ordination of Deacons by Bishop Jonathan at Southwark Cathedral today, for example, will be a joyful coming together of 24 people as they embark on their new lives as priests; the week after, the ordination of last year’s Deacons into the Priesthood marks another important stage in these curates’ ministries.
In late July, a celebration of Southwark Pastoral Auxiliaries will honour those who undertake this important pastoral ministry, and the licensing of new Readers in October will equip another generation of lay ministers to lead and serve in our Diocese.
What is less well known, perhaps, is the long, and sometimes difficult, process that leads up to these moments, and the support given to those seeking to listen to God’s call.
Getting started: Vocations Forums
If you think that God is calling you to commissioned ministry as a SPA, licensed ministry as a Reader, pastoral minister, Licensed Lay Pioneer or Evangelist or to ordained ministry as a deacon or priest, your first step towards this in the Diocese of Southwark is to attend a Vocations Forum. Martin Carr, one of the Diocese’s Coordinating Vocations Advisers, describes the process…
“As part of our desire to encourage vocations in the Diocese, we offer these half-day events on a Saturday every two to three months. We used to meet at Trinity House, but like a lot else, we now run them on Zoom!
Our most recent forum was in May, attended by six enquirers from across the Diocese, some exploring ordination, others looking at lay ministries.
Enquirers come from a variety of backgrounds and churches; the only requirement is a recommendation from your priest or chaplain that you are considering how God is calling you and that they support your attendance.
The atmosphere is relaxed and informal, and everyone gets a lot out of being together and sharing their journeys. The forums are led by an experienced team of vocations advisers, and begin with prayer, introductions, and then a chance to tell our stories and reflect on them in the light of Scripture. Later we consider some case studies, and whether our own sense of calling is realistic, obedient and informed. There’s a chance for questions and feedback, and enquirers are offered the chance to work one-on-one with an adviser in the following months if they wish.
Participants value the forums because they have the chance to meet with others, share their sense of call, and reflect on where God might be leading them next. They are a safe and non-judgmental space.”
Prayerful listening: working with a Vocations Adviser
If, at the end of a Vocations Forum, you want to continue to explore your vocation, you will be assigned a Vocations Adviser (VA) who will work with you for about six months on discerning exactly what God is calling you to.
The Revd Ada Onyekwelu, a self-supporting minister in the Diocese who has been a VA for around seven years, says she herself felt called to this ministry: “I really wanted to help people. I wanted to help people who have no voice to look earnestly, because when I was working as a nurse I was so much involved in interviewing. And I got so many people into the service, especially into areas where you find it difficult to get Black and ethnic minority people, so that was what led me to it. And during my appraisal I highlighted that I really want to help people, wanted to give them the opportunity to listen, and help them come in and work in God’s vineyard, which is for everyone.”
With prayers and conversation, together the enquirer and the VA work to discern how best the former can serve God; this may not always be in the ministry they first thought, but it will be the one where they can best use the gifts they have.
Once this stage is over, the enquirer will go before a selection panel and, if accepted, move on to the next stage of their training, which will be different depending on the type of ministry they are entering. That moment of welcome into ministry that we see in ordination, licensing and commissioning services, therefore, can be years in the making; it is, however, a moment that all those standing there would say was worth waiting for.
Find more information on exploring your vocation to either ordained or lay ministry at: southwark.anglican.org/exploring-your-call
Upcoming events, including Vocations Forums, can be found at southwark.anglican.org/news-events/events/whats-on/
The ordination of the Deacons will be livestreamed today and can be seen here: https://cathedral.southwark.anglican.org/worship-and-music/worship/live-service-stream/
The Vocations Department is currently advertising for Vocations Advisers to join its team; to read a job description and for more information, visit: southwark.anglican.org/vacancy/vocations-adviser/
More on the ordinations of Deacons and Priests, the work of Vocations Advisers, and the recent Lay Ministries morning introducing new ways into ministry in the Diocese, will be found in July’s Bridge, to be published on 7 July: southwark.anglican.org/news-events/news/the-bridge-newspaper