Discerning and encouraging clergy vocations
By Archbishop Philip Freier
We have not long concluded the week that was set aside for focussing on vocations to the ordained ministry of the Church in this diocese. This "Vocations Week" was between 14 and 20 September. It was a week when we were all encouraged to have special intention in our prayers for God’s unique work of calling women and men to the sacred ministry of the Church. It is a necessary part of the life of the Church that the ordained ministry is renewed in each generation and across the diversity of the cultural and linguistic backgrounds of our community.
Discerning a vocation is concerned both with the individual, and their own interior awareness of the movement of the Holy Spirit in their life, as well as the discernment of the Church to test and authenticate that call. There is of course the additional and possibly prior dimension of expectation and encouragement that we can all have in seeing in another person the kind of qualities that can be received as signs of the gifts for ministry that are described in the New Testament and known by most of us in the ministry of the clergy we have known.
The Anglican Church has a long tradition of a thorough theological education that precedes ordination. This is to give the people who will have a primary responsibility in passing on the faith through preaching and catechesis the depth of knowledge of the tradition and scriptures that they will need to be authentic communicators of the apostolic faith. We also have a strong commitment to spiritual and pastoral formation, so that each is well formed in both character and practice.
I am grateful that God continues to answer our prayers and calls people to the Year of Discernment and to selection and formation for ordained ministry. There are undoubtedly many challenges in continuing to ensure that the wide range of roles in which ordained ministers serve are supplied with suitable candidates. From Defence chaplaincy to parish leadership as a Vicar we must not be complacent about the future. We need to set our sights even higher and encourage people of youth and talent to hear God’s call and make a response.
I am glad that the Ministry Support Fund has been gaining some fresh support. This is the means by which we are able to assist in the funding of student placements and curacies in places that are strategically important for ministry and formation but unable to fund them. It goes without saying that we expect a lot from the candidates in formation to balance their own responsibilities and those of study. We provide some financial support and the cost of study is supported through the normal means of government student loans but more could be done with extra resources to lessen the financial hurdle of responding to God’s call.
Please continue to pray for vocations, and if you have missed out on Vocations Week this year make a plan to schedule it into your plans for 2016.