Discernment, says Bishop Hughes, is not just for people considering ordination or churches calling their next priest. It is the responsibility of all faithful people to ask themselves, and their community, “How is God trying to lead me into the thing that God has prepared me for in this life?" (Time: 4:02.)
This is Bishop Hughes in the Diocese of Newark. And I want to talk with you about discernment. That is an important word we use in The Episcopal Church. And most often when we use it, we mean one of two things. We're talking about people who are trying to determine if they are called to ordained ministry, and we call that whole ordination process a discernment process. And then secondly, we talk about discernment is a parish is trying to make the decision about who to call as their next priest-in-charge, or their next rector. We talk about that decision-making process in both cases being a time of discernment. And while those are times of discernment, those are not the definition of discernment.
Discernment is that time and it can happen at any point in life, and I want to encourage it to be happening for every Episcopalian right now. It is that time where we ask ourselves, "What is God calling me to next? What is happening in this situation in which God is trying to guide me? What are the next steps I should take? How is God trying to lead me into the thing that God has prepared me for in this life?" That is something we should all be asking. We've been asking it as we consider this question of beginning anew as a diocese, and many of our parishes are asking the same question, as they ask, "How do we do our ministry and mission in the world that we're in right now?"
So that question is floating all around us. And it's not just the church! Every organization, every business, every school, everyone is asking the question of how do we do that thing that we do, now? The world has changed, people's needs are different. And for us, as Christians, part of asking that question is this turning to God and looking for the ways that God is working in the world around us and working within us, and identifying those things that matter the most to us, that innately God has put into our hearts and into our spirits that we care about, and how God might be asking us to shepherd those things forward.
This piece, this discernment piece, is something that most people need help in doing. I always think it's interesting when people say, “Well, I'm going to go off to a retreat” – or go off to the mountaintop or go off to the ocean – “where I can make that decision.” And that might be a great place to clear out your mind and think things through. But eventually, most of us need people who are wiser, people who are deeply faithful, people who will pray with us, people who will listen to us, and people who will ask us questions. Discernment most often happens within the framework of community, whether that's your family, or your prayer group, or a group of friends, or the faith community that you are living and worshiping in right now.
I want to encourage you to explore discernment. We have an online discernment class happening tomorrow night, Thursday night. Today, Wednesday, is the last day you can sign up for it. And I hope that you're able to partake of that and do some learning about, how do you do discernment? What are the first steps what might you be looking for?
But even if you're not able to take part in that class, there will be more opportunities for you to discern. And you can start that right now in your own home, in your own heart, asking the question, "God, what is it that you have for me? Help me to see that what you would like me to be doing in my life, in this community, in this world right now."
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