Stories of Vocation: Employee Chapel

Many of you are aware that we received a grant from NetVUE to develop a shared sense of vocation throughout the university. One of the activities chosen to foster this ambition is an employee chapel time, which will include lunch conversations immediately following the presentations. Three dates have been chosen: Feb 4, Mar 3, and April 7. Each chapel will feature a story teller from among the RU staff and faculty who will reflect on their own story of vocation from a particular perspective. Dr. Stogner has agreed to be our first story teller on Feb 4.

I want to remind you of some of the ways we’re thinking about vocational discovery as we anticipate these chapel times. One image we’re using for vocational discernment is that of orienteering. In a wilderness, travelers can discover where they are with a map and three fixed points on the horizon. Our fixed points on the journey of vocational discovery are God’s life, God’s people, and God’s world. If we pay attention to these three things, we have a better chance of charting a path related to God’s call on our lives.

These three aspects of vocational discernment overlap, but can also be distinguished from one another. For instance, God’s life would include God’s people, and God’s world, but God’s life is not exhausted by these realities. People have experiences of God that are more vertical and transcendent, and even personal, than the more horizontal and social experiences related to God’s people and God’s world.

While these three aspects of vocational discernment are distinguishable from each other, all three are essential for a robust sense of calling. If one’s calling is rooted only in God’s life, the result might be what theologians call “quietism,” a sense of inner peace without concern for justice or mission. A call rooted only in a sense of God’s people might result in what theologians call “fideism,” a sense that God only works in the privileged confines of the faithful, ignoring the ways that God might be working through unexpected sources in the world. A sense of vocation formed principally by experiences of injustice in the world might result in an “activism” removed from notions of mercy essential to the life of God and God’s people. All three aspects, then, are necessary for healthy vocational discernment.

These explanations are likely too abstract or theoretical to fully clarify what vocational reflection might involve. The best way to develop understanding is to hear others talk about what vocational reflection has been like for them. The stories others tell have a way of drawing us near, allowing us to participate in ways that allow comparison or contrast. It’s an interesting phenomenon that we often learn more about ourselves be hearing the stories of others.

And so, we will hear stories from our colleagues in hope of clarifying our shared work around vocation. They’ll not only give us some sense of their own story, but will emphasize one of the three aspects of vocational discernment. In doing so, we will not only be inspired by the stories of others, but will also have greater insight into the ways God might be calling us.

Author: Mark Love

I am the Director of the Resource Center for Missional Leadership at Rochester College. Part of my job includes directing a master's degree in missional leadership, a situated learning degree. I am married to Donna and have a son, Josh Love, who lives in Portland, OR. With Donna, I have also inherited three great daughters and three amazing granddaughters.

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