'The voice of this calling' (Four Quartets, Little Gidding V, TS Eliot)
Ministers of the Gospel do not come ready made.
We are rooted in our humanity and dependent on re-birth by the Spirit, just like any follower of Jesus.
We grow with our fellow Christians in our understanding of worship, disciple making and prophetic witness as members of the worldwide body of Christ.
We discover our talent as creative worker, homemaker, family and/or community member.
Then, for a few, there is a sense of participating as a servant-leader of the priesthood of all believers (1 Peter 2:9) and the exploration of a distinctive, authorised ministry in and for the Church.
In these days we are expecting a renewal of confidence amongst all Christians through whom more people will come to know Jesus as their Saviour and Lord.
To assist in this movement, deacons, priests, bishops and a wide range of lay ministers are being called afresh in this generation.
One of our Church of England - Birmingham Transforming Church goals is ‘to increase the number of leaders of all ages, and drawn from every ethnic group, who are trained and deployed in the church and wider community’.
In particular the Director of Ordinands, Canon Faith Claringbull, reminds us that as 40% of stipendiary clergy are due to retire in the next ten years we are being asked to grow the number of women and men coming forward for ordination.
In May 2015, Vocations month, will you discern in yourself or others whether there is a gift of service that is being drawn out into public view by Jesus, submit it to the prayer of the local church and, if affirmed, to the Bishop's advisers and directors?
TS Eliot puts another phrase ahead of vocation, 'with the drawing of this love', reminding us that the Christian journey has as its heart relationship with God through the unconditional offer of Jesus' self-giving sacrifice and service.
This is no cheap task. Obedience, Jesus reminds us, has the ease of a well-carved yoke (Matthew 11:30) but to follow him is to take up our cross of suffering and compassion (Luke 9:23). If this is as a Church minister, there will be contentment and fulfilment (some vicars say in 'the best job in the world'). ‘With joy you will draw waters from the wells of salvation' (Isaiah 12:3), but in the words of the hymn writer, Isaac Watts, this service 'demands my soul, my life, my all'.
Let us encourage our ordained and lay church ministers and expect many talented people, of all backgrounds, to offer their lives in building up the body of Christ for the salvation of the world.
The Rt Revd David Urquhart
Bishop of Birmingham
You will find worship and preaching resources for 'Vocations Sunday' on the Church of England website (click here). The section ‘Vocation/Development’ on our own website also has information and stories.