“Our congregation has a greater understanding and comfort with the language of vocation.”
“The sessions connected parishioners in deep ways and nurtured their faith.”
“The notion of institutional vocation has been tremendously helpful for our staff members in providing means for mutual accountability and inspiration.”
Feedback from congregations in our Exploring Vocation in Community program reveals the transformative possibilities for communities who engage questions of calling with their members.
The Collegeville Institute Seminars recently hosted a meeting of 10 congregations from a variety of Christian denominations across the U.S. to learn from their experiences of focusing on vocation. (One participant even blogged about his experience of feeling energized by this ecumenical gathering!)
The congregational leaders who joined us in Collegeville have engaged the topic of vocation in a variety of different ways:
- Many congregations used our Called to Life and Called to Work series for small groups.
- Pastors invited panels of professionals from the congregation to share stories of their own sense of calling.
- Several churches made vocation the focus of their church’s Lenten observance, through preaching or adult education opportunities.
- Some developed day-long retreats to introduce parishioners to the concept of vocation.
Interestingly, we learned that those who led the vocation efforts in their communities discovered similar successful approaches across denominational lines:
- Engaging multiple strategies (for example, small groups as well as Sunday preaching)
- Gathering parishioners by profession
- Starting with existing groups (such as catechists or church councils)
- Creating opportunities for people to share their stories, especially around work
In the congregational leaders’ own words, here are examples of what happens when people begin to consider how God may be calling in their lives:
“Parishioners became more aware of their own stories and the stories of others so that they were able to understand ‘call’ as something multiple and changing throughout life. They found meaning in what they thought were failed callings of the past, and discerned how sufferings led to new lives.”
“We were pleased to discover how rich and multi-faceted the conversation is and how it’s never really finished. Vocation is the place where people’s faith and their daily lives connect.”
“I saw how people learned so much about themselves from listening to other people’s stories. Our vocations are unique, but also similar, and ongoing. People resonated with vocation as a life-long reality—one that we live out daily, throughout our lives. How these things are lived out, and how life affects them, is the stuff of vocation, of listening to our callings, of struggling to be centered, whole people of God.”
“What has surprised me the most about doing this work has been the number of women and men of different ages and cultural backgrounds and faith traditions that are deeply drawn to these questions of call.”
“We are inspired by the high level of commitment of our church members to engage in an extended study and by the spirit of openness they enter into it. Everyone who has participated, and many who have not yet been able to, has the sense that we are engaging in something truly significant in each person’s life and in the life of our congregation.”
Has your congregation explored the topic of vocation? What groups in your community might be interested in issues of discernment and calling?
Click here to learn more about the projects of each Exploring Vocation in Community congregation.