New year, new path?

New Year is traditionally a time of resolutions and new beginnings. For some of us this will be a new hobby, an ambitious exercise plan, or an intention to refocus our priorities on something important to us. Others of us might go for something more light-hearted such as my decision a few years ago to learn to brush my teeth with my left hand (partial success!). Or perhaps this New Year signals time for a change in direction for you, a sense that God is calling you into something new?

We may approach this time with mixed emotions; new beginnings can often also mean we have experienced an ending of something else, that we are at a crossroads in life, or we may have some barriers to overcome before entering this new season. It might feel scary, exciting, exhausting, hopeful, lonely, or maybe a mixture of all of those at different times. These feelings are understandable and okay.

It’s helpful to remember we are not alone. The Lord promises to be with us wherever we go (Joshua 1:9, Matthew 28:20), and our pathway forwards can be guided by God’s calling on our lives. What are you called to? Are you feeling a nudge to explore a new path?

“Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
Joshua 1:9

Vocation is for all God’s people and is about working out who we are supposed to be and what we are supposed to be doing. This takes discernment and time. One of the ways in which you can begin to explore this is through the ‘Called: Mission, Ministry & Me’ events. The events combine teaching, discussion, reflection and prayer to seek together God’s call for us as part of the Body of Christ. There is the opportunity to hear vocation stories from those in different roles in the Diocese, both lay and ordained, and to imagine how God might be inviting us, each with our own unique shape, to join in with God’s mission.

Perhaps this might be your New Year activity?

Here are some comments from those who have attended previous courses:

“It was an extremely well- thought out course. The pace was good and met the needs of a diverse group of people, all of whom were made to feel welcomed and valued. There was a clear structure, but scope for fluidity; the Holy Spirit was definitely at work.”

“Offered people the opportunity to hear from and talk to people who have been through this and are actively following their individual vocations”

“I realise now, that call has been with me for years, in one form or another, but perhaps remained dormant, or frustrated, for want of a sympathetic and understanding heart.”

“I realised that vocation is a lifetime journey not a specific end point to be striving for”

The next event is a five week evening course running on Tuesday evenings 7:30-9:30pm, from 14 January – 11 February 2020 at All Saints Church in Warwick. There are also further dates available later in the year, so click here to find out more and book your place. 

If you have questions, contact Serving Christ Learning Mentor, Jen Stewart, on jen.stewart@covcofe.org or DDO & Vocations Adviser, The Rev’d Ellie Clack, on ellie.clack@covcofe.org  

We look forward to journeying alongside you as your discover your next steps.

Making Space: Leading Quiet Days & Retreats

**UPDATE**
Both learning communities are now fully booked. If you would like to talk to Lisa or Jen about ideas or support in this area, please contact us and we will be happy to chat with you: servingchrist@covcofe.org 

This Learning Community is an opportunity to gather together with others to share ideas, inspiration and encouragement that will help develop your skills in making space for others to encounter God through quiet days/evenings and retreats. 

We will meet together five times over the year, with each session focusing on a different element of planning a quiet day, and having a different theme following the pattern of the liturgical year (advent, lent etc.). Sessions will be interactive with opportunities to share and discuss ideas and challenges along with input from the group facilitators and time for reflection and prayer. 

No experience of running quiet days is required! The events you’d like to run might be anything from a simple prayer station in your church for visitors to access, to a full day retreat. You are welcome whether this is an area you already dabble in, you’re an old hand at planning retreats and are looking for fresh ideas or you would like to put something like this on at your church but have no clue where to start! Bring your enthusiasm and we’ll all share our knowledge and creativity and go away encouraged and inspired.

To find out more about this area, contact Lisa Holt or Jen Stewart via servingchrist@covcofe.org

 

Group 1 – Stoke St Michael (FULLY BOOKED)

Dates : 

Wednesday 6 November 2019
Wednesday 29 January 2020
Wednesday 25 March 2020
Wednesday 6 May 2020
Wednesday 15 July 2020

Time: Meeting from 7:00 – 9:00pm (beginning with refreshments)

Location: Stoke St Michael’s Church, Coventry, CV2 4BG

Group 2 – Wellesbourne (FULLY BOOKED)

Dates : 

Wednesday 15 January 2020
Wednesday 11 March 2020
Wednesday 29 April 2020
Wednesday 8 July 2020
Wednesday 30 September 2020

Time: Meeting from 7:00 – 9:00pm (beginning with refreshments)

Location: St Peter’s Church, Wellesbourne, CV35 9LS

                           — Spaces are limited to enable the most effective learning environment —

There is no charge to be part of a Learning Community. The EQuip Learning Communities are predominantly intended for lay people, but if you’re ordained and interested, do get in touch!

Called: Mission, Ministry & Me

We are all called by God.

Vocation, (from the Latin vocare meaning ‘to call’) is for all God’s people and is about working out who we are supposed to be and what we are supposed to be doing. We are called in many different ways and to many different things. Working out what this calling looks and feels like takes discernment and time. One of the ways in which you can explore this is through the Called: Mission, Ministry & Me’ events which create space to explore, wonder and listen to God.

On Saturday 15 June we will gather at The Hope Centre in Coventry for a day of teaching, discussion, reflection and prayer to seek together God’s call for us as part of the Body of Christ. There will be the opportunity to hear vocation stories from those in different roles in the Diocese, both lay and ordained, and to imagine how God might be inviting us, each with our own unique shape, to join in with God’s mission. Bookings are now open for this event; click here to find out more.

In order to make the events more accessible, these Called events will run in three different formats across the year:

  • One day conference format
    Next dates: Saturday 15 June 2019
  • Two day weekend retreat
    Next dates: Winter term (dates tbc)
  • Five week evening course

Next dates: March 2020

The new course ran for the first time in January this year. Here are some comments from those who attended:

“Extremely helpful to explore vocation options”

“It was an extremely well- thought out course. The pace was good and met the needs of a diverse group of people, all of whom were made to feel welcomed and valued. There was a clear structure, but scope for fluidity; the Holy Spirit was definitely at work.”

“Offered people the opportunity to hear from and talk to people who have been through this and are actively following their individual vocations”

“I realised that vocation is a lifetime journey not a specific end point to be striving for”

“It reminded me of the need to find time to just be with and listen to God. If I don’t stop and listen, it’s a lot harder to hear.”

If you are interested in attending or would like a conversation about how you can discover more about your part in God’s mission, go to the Vocation pages on the Diocese website or contact DDO & Vocations Adviser, The Rev’d Ellie Clack, on ellie.clack@covcofe.org or Serving Christ Learning Mentor, Jen Thornton, on jen.thornton@covcofe.org

Gifts without love are meaningless

Wedding season has begun in earnest, kicked off by the royal celebrations. As many of us look forward to celebrating with friends and family, I’m pondering one of the bible passages most commonly read in wedding ceremonies and how it applies to us as a church family.

It was only when I sat down with a friend to help her choose a bible reading for their upcoming nuptials and was asked to explain the context of 1 Corinthians 13 that I realised that the familiar passage on love was really meant for much more than marriage. Taken out of its place between chapter 12 and 14, we miss Paul’s point, conveniently narrowing down the passage to verses 4-8 so it makes for a more wedding appropriate reading.

But Paul wasn’t talking about a couple. In chapter 12 he has been instructing the Corinthian church about the use of Spiritual Gifts, and he continues to refer to the gifts throughout chapter 13 and into chapter 14. The chapter breaks that were added in the early 13th Century by the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Stephen Langton, can sometimes mean we lose the flow and connection between chapters, as I had done here.

So how does this passage about love fit into the teachings about Spiritual Gifts within the church?

Paul gives examples of dramatic displays of spiritual gifts, inspiring demonstrations which most of us could never imagine performing and would be seriously impressed to see (I mean have you honestly ever dreamed you would be able to move a mountain?). He then tells us that they are worth nothing, when they are done without love. They will not win hearts for the Kingdom, because without love, they are empty. This evidence of God’s power, these impressive acts will ring with insincerity when we are simultaneously envious and critical of each other, living lives that do not match our words. What kind of a witness to God is that?

impressive acts will ring with insincerity when we are living lives that do not match our words

Love is a fruit of the Spirit. These eternal qualities are developed in us by the Spirit as we grow in maturity in our faith. Paul is reminding us that we need to be striving to grow spiritual fruit through the development of our character, alongside the use of our spiritual gifts:

‘…serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbour as yourself.” …the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.’ Galatians 5:13-14, 22-23

Spiritual gifts used without love do not reflect who God is, or have a kingdom impact

If we are seeking to use and serve with our spiritual gifts, but do not do so from a place of love, if love for the Lord and for our church family is not evident in our daily life, then our acts are missing the vital ingredient. Our attitude matters. Spiritual gifts used without love do not reflect who God is, or have a kingdom impact. ‘God is love’ (1 John 4:16) and the love we show each other is the evidence of our faith; as Jesus said: 

‘By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.’ John 13:35

We are called to use our gifts in love. We are called to glorify God and edify each other with love. And Paul gives us a detailed list of what this love looks like:

‘Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.’ 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

I invite you to pause and dwell on this passage. Highlight the different attributes of love that you see. How many of us can look at this list, in the light of how we serve our church, and feel confident that we live up to this definition of love? How many of us strive to do so? Which elements do you struggle with?

There is usually some reason, some excuse we give as to why we have fallen short. But be honest with yourself because this is important; our character matters. Take some time now to ask the Lord to help you to grow in these areas over the coming weeks.

So you know your spiritual gifts – what now?

In the early days of doing this role, I spent some time investigating the different ways available for people to discover their spiritual gifts. What I came across was a wealth of different questionnaires; some free, some expensive; some stand alone, some part of a course; some listing 19 gifts, others 30; but most looking exceedingly similar to each other. I confess to completing quite a few myself, being intrigued to discover whether they came out with the same results…which they generally did.

So many ways exist to explore what your spiritual gifts might be, but once you have filled in a form and identified some gifts, what then?

1 Peter 4:10 says ‘Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.’ 

So we’re called to use our gifts to serve others. But who? And How?

We often lack imagination when we think about how our gifts can be used. We look at the tasks that need doing in church and the gaps on the rota and try to fit ourselves into the spaces that exist. However, we have a God who is much more creative than that! What if He has a plan for you that looks different to what you expected? Let’s be brave and willing to explore with Him.

We often lack imagination when we think about how our gifts can be used

I suggest you start by thinking about the following questions:

  • What are you passionate about?
  • What frustrates you?
  • What do you long to see change in your church or community?
  • What brings you joy?

The answers to these questions will begin to uncover some people and causes which God has put on your heart. Spend time reflecting on your answers and allow God to identify an area or group of people to whom he is calling you.

Next, consider what other abilities and life experience you have.

  • Name the things you’re good at.
  • What do you know a lot about?
  • What comes naturally to you?
  • What have you learned from experiences in your past (good or bad) that enables you to help others in a special way?

This will help you explore how you could use your gifts to serve the areas you identified and begin to address some of the changes you want to see.

When you are exploring these questions, it is helpful to involve others in the conversation who know you well and can support you as you move into your ministry. I encourage you to talk with your vicar, small group leader or a friend. Not only will they be able to pray with you and offer insight, they will often be in a position to open doors for you and create opportunities for you to develop.

If you want to find out more about discovering your Spiritual Gifts and exploring how you are called to use them to join in with God’s mission, you can get in touch with me here.