“A call from God has the power of conviction that is not our work alone but is something intended and empowered by God.” Author Ben Campbell Johnson makes this statement in his book, Hearing God’s Call. He asks this question in the third paragraph of the book, “How do I know the call comes from God and not my own unconscious longings or fears or even cultural influences on my perceptions and decision-making?”
Clergy and Laity of the diocese met for a Diaconal Discernment Retreat on Friday, October 1 to follow the Spirit and help six Diaconal Nominees answer that question. St. Paul’s, Rock Creek hosted the people discerning a call to Holy Orders. Worship, prayers, interviews, and social time consumed the day as the Nominees for Diaconal Postulancy had time to reflect and share in these areas:
- Spirituality, Prayer Life, and Spiritual Disciplines
- Academic and Psychological Readiness
- Diakonia and Servant Ministry
- Support Systems and Collegiality
Discernment is defined as perception in the absence of judgment with a view to obtaining spiritual guidance and understanding. Spiritual guidance and understanding were the objectives of the day for both those discerning a call to ordained ministry as well as those who were present to help the Nominees on this journey.
By the time Nominees are invited to attend the Diaconal Discernment Retreat, they have completed six months of discernment with a Local Discernment Committee comprised of laity from their sponsoring parishes. Those Nominees that are discerned for the diaconate are made Postulants by the Bishop. The next step in their journey is to begin academic training in the areas of Old Testament, New Testament, Church History, Ethics, and Systematic Theology. These seminary courses are offered in English by the Church Divinity School of the Pacific and in Spanish by our Latino Deacons School. The classes in both settings may be completed in one calendar year.
After their academic training, Postulants attend the Diocesan Deacons School for 18 months. Throughout this time there are periodic interviews and evaluations by the Commission on Ministry (COM) and the Standing Committee, along with two internships, one in a social service agency and one in a parish with a Deacon.
It is a long journey of discernment and formation, two essential elements for anyone who may be called to ordained diaconal ministry. Yet the most important aspect of discernment is keeping one’s ears, eyes, and heart inclined to God and the Holy Spirit.
The Nominees moving to Postulancy in the Episcopal Diocese of Washington ask for your prayers as they walk this way of following God to a new dimension of their faith and servanthood to the kingdom.
The Rev. Steve Seely
Deacon, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church