All of us may practice spiritual discernment, prayerfully listening for God’s word for our lives. To do so in intentional community is to be supported in faithfully distinguishing the unique call of God’s voice – calling us to the ministry where God most needs us to be.
This communal spiritual discernment lies at the heart of the work of the Parish Discernment Committee (PDC). The PDC occurs in the early stages of an individual’s exploration of a call to ordained ministry, based on a letter of support from their sponsoring priest, and at the direction of the Bishop and Commission on Ministry. Because discernment of ordained ministry in God’s Church occurs in partnership with the Church – the people of God – the PDC is composed of several parishioners from the discerner’s home parish, and one or two trained conveners who meet a handful of times to prayerfully consider three important questions:
The Episcopal Diocese of San Diego is one of many dioceses throughout the Church that looks to Listening Hearts Ministries (https://listeninghearts.org/) to train our volunteers who convene Parish Discernment Committees. And, as Jesus said in commissioning the seventy, “the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few”! Do you have a heart for prayerful listening and discernment? Are you eager to be part of a process that raises up future ordained leaders in the Church? Could God be calling you to become a trained convener?
Consider the experience of one of our Listening Hearts-trained conveners, Debbie Kistler, who has served on several PDCs:
“The words “Listening Hearts” are what got me excited. Learning that I was helping to create a prayerful, confidential, loving, safe, and Holy Spirit-filled place of opportunity for a discerner to explore where God is guiding them, has been a gift to me as well as my siblings on this journey. What keeps me saying ‘yes’ is the many ways I have witnessed the Holy Spirit at work, not only every time we gather, but in the hours I spend in prayer for all those involved. In this ministry, we get to witness God’s beloved children being called, trusting, and acting. We help in creating a space to nurture seeds others have planted, to help a discerner acknowledge the fruit they hope is ripe and ready to be picked, and to plant seeds that we trust will grow in the future. For me this work is my trusting in our Lord and with all my heart knowing that my hoping is never in vain. I have yet to finish a PDC with a discerner without feeling I too have grown and been nourished by God’s unconditional love.”
And, the experience of one of our diocese’s ordinands, Heather Lawrence, as she reflects on the experience of being the discerner in her own PDC:
“Discerning a call to ordained ministry can be (or maybe must be!) a profoundly disorienting experience, and it simply cannot be navigated alone. The Listening Hearts community involved in my discernment process created a container in which, together, we could sift through fears and resistance, identify learning opportunities, and amplify the voice of God. It’s a gift of the Episcopal tradition that the whole church — lay and ordained — discern together who is called to serve in this particular role, and I carry the confidence of this larger community with me in my ministry every day.”
Please, consider if God may be calling you to the ministry of a Listening Hearts convener! To explore the possibility further, please contact Terry Kelly at email@example.com.
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