Building Bridges

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Two weeks ago I talked about how we are all ministers or priests, as evidenced in the Episcopal Catechism. It is also worth noting that, in our Baptismal Covenant, we affirm that we will “proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ” and “seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself’,” all of which sounds like the work of a minister to me.

To assist us in that endeavor, the Episcopal Church has created a course of study called Education for Ministry (EfM). Like many others, I always thought that name was a little misleading. I am in EfM, but I am not planning on becoming an ordained minister. Our EfM book this year acknowledges as much:

“It is frequently suggested that Education for Ministry should change its name because the term “ministry” has too clerical a connotation today in the United States. Some mistake the program for a course in preparation for ordained ministry.”

I now understand EfM’s goal–and name–differently. We all have a ministry.

As we wrap up this year, our final unit is titled “Vocation: Hearing and Responding to God’s Call.” This unit began by looking at “Mission, Vocation, and Gifts” using the metaphor of a bridge:

klesis2The idea of the metaphor is that we use our gifts and passions, which are grounded in the love of God, to discern our vocation that connects us to the world. That vocation requires commitment, but that commitment is held up through community, which is comprised of individuals, groups, institutions (such as the church), prayer, spiritual practices, and other supports which depend on the person. As the book says, “To understand that vocation and ministry have a dimension of gladness is a revelation to most parishioners. Gifts discernment is about celebrating and enjoying each person’s true vocation.” In other words, our individual vocations may, in fact be supporting others’ vocations. We are not expected to go it alone, nor should it be painful. Our vocation rises, after all, from our “giftedness, which is the source of our deep pleasure, and our passionate connection to the world’s deep hunger.”

I have seen that this is true in my own church in Woodstock, St. Gregory’s. One of our members, an artist, and other gifted artists in the church minister to us in our art shows and many other ways; another member, a landscaper, and our Garden Committee have turned our backyard into a ministry to the community and those with special needs. These are beautiful examples of these persons’ gifts and passions creating a bridge–a vocation–to the world.

What are your gifts and passions? How can you use them in your vocation?

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