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What is vocation?

Vocation comes from the root “vocare,” which means “to call.” It refers to our calling or our work. At its best, it applies to all of us. We all, as lay people or as ordained people, have a vocation, a calling. However, we have come to associate vocation with the ordained ministry of the church, most commonly with the priesthood.

In the Episcopal Church, there are both specific requirements to be met in order to be ordained and personal gifts needed in order to be effective in the priestly ministry. The specific requirements may be found in the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church, Title III. The personal gifts needed include (but of course are not limited to) the following:

  1. Sense of self: self-knowledge, psychological health.
  2. Personal integrity: authenticity, trustworthiness, dependability
  3. Intelligence: intellectual grasp of concepts and practical applications and implications of them.
  4. Spiritual depth: a tended relationship with God in Christ.
  5. Sense of vocation for the ordained ministry: a call, a beckoning, recognized as from God.
  6. Leadership: initiative, vision, willingness to risk, ability to motivate others.
  7. Loving heart: capacity and inclination to be close to and care for others.
  8. Sense of the fitness of things: judgment, boundaries, etc.
  9. Loyalty to the institution of the Church: a healthy respect for the traditions and authority of the Church from a position of challenge as well as from a position or support.

(from the Discernment handbook of the Diocese of Atlanta, 1996)

While the Church seeks out those who meet the canonical requirements and who present themselves with a call and these gifts, it is the responsibility of the Church to confirm such a call and affirm such gifts. Thus in most dioceses of the Episcopal Church, there are discernment programs in place to assist both the aspirant and the church in reaching agreement about those called to the priesthood.

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