Discernment is an ongoing feature of our Christian journey. As a people of faith and action, we are all called by God to a life of ministry. The “Catechism” in our Book of Common Prayer makes clear that we are all ministers: “The ministers of the Church are lay persons, bishops, priests, and deacons.”
To assist individuals who are beginning a period of active discernment, as well as those moving through the process of discerning, the diocesan Commission on Ministry has developed a publication entitled: Manual for Discernment Process for Vocational Ministry. This manual is readily available through our diocesan web-site, and readers will find that it provides guidance through all phases of discernment. As stated in that document, “The Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast supports an individual’s response to the call of Christ by providing a process of listening, testing, serving, and encouraging as the nominee discerns a particular call to a more developed lay ministry, or a call to bridge the gap between church and congregation as an ordained deacon, or to serve Christ as an ordained priest.”
An early step for anyone who is examining call for ministry is conversation with and guidance from the clergy of one’s local congregation. These meetings provide an opportunity to talk about one’s spiritual journey to the present as well as one’s hope into the future. From such times together, the local clergy person and the individual will mutually decide if and when consultation with the bishop is needed.
As the process of discernment continues, the bishop may ask the Commission on Ministry (COM) to become involved. The COM is made-up of twelve lay and clergy members who are appointed by the Bishop for three-year terms. This Commission is advisory to the bishop and represents the Church community in the discernment journey. In this role, the COM provides assistance on behalf of our diocesan community to the individual who is seeking to respond to God’s call. Thus, members of the Commission work closely with both the individuals and the bishop, as needed, over a period of many months.
In addition to offering advice to the bishop, the COM provides continuing support to all persons as they proceed in active discernment. This means that the Commission accepts and embraces its responsibility in helping individuals discern their call to lay ministry, or to the order of deacons, or to the priesthood.
Descriptions of these ministries, written by laity, deacon, and priests will appear shortly in upcoming issues of Coastline. Our goal in providing this series is to speak to people throughout the diocese about God’s call for minsters of the Church, and to describe ways in which these calls are lived out in daily lives and in the world.