The fourth annual diocesan Vocations Day was held in the Trendell Lounge, the space shared by the Synod Office and St. John’s Shaughnessy on Saturday, October 20, 2018 10am-3pm. The title for the event which is likely to be an enduring one is “Responding to God’s Call”.
A dozen seekers attended the five hour event and two parish clergy were also present accompanying seekers that they had invited and encouraged to attend. The day was facilitated by: the Venerable Bruce Morris, Archdeacon for Deacons, deacon at St, Hilda, Sechelt; the Venerable John Stephens, Archdeacon of Vancouver, rector at St. John’s Shaughnessy; the Reverend Sharon Salomons, Director for Diaconal Formation, priest-in-charge at St. Augustine, Marpole.
The basic format for the day consisted of plenary presentations led by the three facilitators, together with small group sessions as participants discussed their sense of vocation. Some members of the group of seekers have already identified the nature of their call and approximately half have yet to determine to which order, diaconate or priesthood.
During the morning plenary session, Sharon Salomons presented the formation process for diaconal candidates, as well as sharing her own story of call.
Vocations Day in the Diocese of New Westminster has evolved over the four years from an event open to anyone which according to Bruce Morris, “tended to have people attend whose sense of call was very unformed” to the current process which involves receiving an invitation to the event from parish clergy. Archdeacon Morris went on to say the following about the current format, “we have a smaller number of people (than the initial version), who are serious enquirers, often already started in the discernment process.”
The questions asked by seekers varied widely - some had questions about process, some asked “how do you know?” regarding divine call and some asked if our diocese would consider ministries that are “out of the box”.
When asked to share his thoughts about the day, John Stephens offered the following reflection:
“This event creates a safe and encouraging place for people to talk about a potential call to ordained ministry. It is not easy to find places to simply explore whether this is a legitimate call from God and whether this calling makes sense in the context of ordained ministry in the Church. This event is a place to ask questions, wonder aloud, hear the stories of others, name your own concerns, voice your feelings about it all.
When one is wondering if one has a call to ordained ministry there are few places to discuss it without sounding odd or strange but this event allows people to explore, wonder and continue to seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit on their pilgrimage and journey. It was a great joy for me to be part of it.”
When asked to comment on what he thought worked well during the 2018 version of Vocations Day, Bruce Morris echoed John Stephen’s response particularly regarding a safe place to share:
“Maintaining an atmosphere of open discussion works really well, even through the plenary presentations, in which any question could be asked (and most answered) and everyone’s call to Christian ministry is affirmed.”
(Prepared with files from Bruce Morris, Deacon, St. Hilda, Sechelt, Archdeacon for Deacons, Diocese of New Westminster)