Vocations Sunday round-up

Every year on Vocations Sunday, the Fourth Sunday of Easter, SEI ordinands and candidates for Lay Readership offer to go and preach across the Province. This year 11 of them received such invitations. Accordingly they travelled to Tain, Nairn and Inverness in the north, to Stornoway and the charges of the West Highland Region in the west, east to Muchalls, Dundee and Dunblane, and south to Kilmarnock. The photo above shows Final Year ordinand Godwin Chimara, Diocese of Aberdeen and Orkney, who was invited to preach at St Paul’s Cathedral Dundee. On the left is the Provost, the Very Revd Dr Elizabeth Thomson, and on the right the Revd Roxanne Campbell, Priest for Outreach and Priest in Charge of St. Martin’s, Dundee.

And while these students preached about their own vocational journey pathways and shared something of their formational pathways at SEI, the primary thrust of their preaching was about the vocation of us all as disciples of Christ. Ferdinand von Prondzynski, fellow Final Year ordinand from the Diocese of Aberdeen and Orkney, put it beautifully when he opened his sermon at Inverness Cathedral thus:

In 1961 President Kennedy visited the NASA headquarters for the first time. As he toured the building, he caught sight of a janitor cleaning the floor. He walked over to him and asked him what he was doing so late. The man replied, “I am helping to put a man on the moon.” On this Vocations Sunday, I cannot think of a better example of the true meaning of “vocation”. According to a biography of the Administrator of NASA at the time, James Webb, published some years later, he instilled in the entire NASA community a strong sense of common purpose, and the idea that everyone there was part of the agency’s mission, indeed of a noble national mission. The NASA team possessed a great sense of vocation.

So, in the great team of the Scottish Episcopal Church, what vocation do you and I have? For many years I have had some sense of vocation, and every so often in my life I have sought guidance on it. Some years ago I had an opportunity to explore this with the then retired (and very wonderful) Archbishop of Canterbury, Michael Ramsey. He asked me how long I had exercised Christian ministry in my life. I hadn’t expected this question and frankly wasn’t sure what he was asking, and while I don’t really remember it exactly, I fear I gave a rambling response. But I remember him interrupting me gently: “If you have a vocation, then you will always have offered ministry, right from your early childhood”. It’s only rather later that I understood what he meant: the NASA janitor didn’t have to be a rocket scientist to be part of the moon landings team, and you and I don’t have to be ordained or licensed in order to be ministers of the Gospel.

The same message was conveyed by Ross Stirling-Young, second year Mixed Mode ordinand, Diocese of St Andrews, Dunkeld and Dunblane, when preaching in the charges of the West Highland Region, Diocese of Argyll and The Isles. Ross, shown above with the Revd Amanda Fairclough, Priest in Charge, West Highland Region, accompanied his sermon with this verse:

Welcomer, baker, tea maker, or cook,
Jobs outside, as master of the pruning hook.
Visiting members and offering a listening ear,
Or meeting at the local pub and sharing stories over a beer.
Like Simon Peter, Andrew and John,
Jesus the shepherd, to Him we are drawn.
So keep your ears open and listen to his call,
There is no job that will ever be too small.

Photos courtesy of Godwin Chimara and Ross Stirling-Young