Last week the Virginia Synod Vocations Conference took place at Eagle Eyrie Baptist Conference Center in Lynchburg. The Vocations Conference is an event for folks curious about what professional ministry in the church is like to spend time with those who have experience within the church in order to better discern their own call. This year 17 inquirers, individuals discerning God’s call to public ministry in the church, and 10 candidates for ministry, individuals who have discerned a call to rostered ministry in the church and are engaged in the process of formation for leadership, were in attendance. These individuals were joined by their pastors and the Candidacy Committee to reflect and to ask questions concerning their call and gifts for ministry.
During their time together, the candidates and inquirers were able to get to know one another, meeting peers who are in their own processes of discernment. “It was helpful for me to spend time with people going through a similar experience of discerning their call. Discernment is a highly personal time of life, even if you’re not discerning a call to ministry. Having people considering [their call to ministry] to talk to was great,” said Grace Casola, an inquirer from Christ Lutheran in Roanoke. With group mealtimes, friendly conversation, and worship, there were plenty of opportunities to strengthen these new bonds and create a sense of community among those in attendance.
The group was also led in a series of presentations with The Rev. Ruth E. Hamilton the Region 9 Candidacy and Leadership Manager, and The Rev. Paul Baglyos the Candidacy and Leadership Manager for Regions 7 and 8. Together, Pastor Ruth and Pastor Paul shared with the group the importance of call. The group shared experiences in which they felt called in their faith, as well as experiences in which they may have failed to answer God’s call.
Pastor Ruth and Pastor Paul also discussed the importance of practicing discernment, which is an ongoing process that may begin at different points in a person’s life, and continue over a lifetime to be revisited periodically. They concluded the conference by taking a closer look at the candidacy process, First Call, as well as the transitions those serving in ministry face. During their time together Pastor Ruth and Pastor Paul also took time to answer questions big and small, like “What is the difference between a Pastor and a Deacon?”