“What are vicars doing here?”
It is a common reaction we, as Young Vocation Champions for the Diocese, get at careers fairs, watching the secondary school students, in their little groups, browsing around the eclectic range of corporate stands from the uniform organisations (lots of exciting pictures and glossy brochures) to the financial sector (lots of free pens and even glossier brochures). Often there is an expression of surprise and hesitant fascination as they bump into ‘vicars’ in front of the large multi-coloured banner which asks the questions – Which way now? What makes you come alive?
The students’ question is actually a very good one. What are vicars doing there? As Young Vocations Champions for the Diocese of Salisbury our role description is summarised as to champion Young Vocations in the Diocese including as part of the national strategy to encourage vocations to ordained ministry in those under 32. A very important part in this role is to have a presence at careers fairs at a number of secondary schools within the Diocese to start the conversation with young people about what having a vocation means. Like the Banks and the IT companies and every other stall we have our freebies too, a smart wristband in resplendent purple which is pleasingly popular and asks the existential question ‘Who? Me?’ A gift, which we hope and pray might lead to questions leading in turn to an exploration of vocation in its widest sense imminently or in the future.
The benefits and fruits of our presence at careers fairs are several fold. The strand that underpins our presence at careers fairs is the heart of vocation – we simply encourage young people to think and pray carefully about where they feel they are called to serve and work in the future. That is why the questions on our banner and leaflets asks – ‘Which Way now? What makes you come alive?’ It is the heart of vocation to listen to that call deep within and if a young person remembers only this in the days and weeks ahead, then that is a wonderful fruit of our presence amongst them.
Of course, one of main reasons to be present is to encourage vocations by giving young people who may have experienced some form of call to Christian ministry, even ordination, an opportunity for an informal conversation in an open and safe environment which is non-threatening and familiar. It may be that the call has been niggling and sitting within them for some time but they do not feel the confidence to approach a member of the clergy at their own church. The medium of the careers fair gives that opportunity to make a tentative enquiry and to request information without any expectation being placed upon them.
However, we as Young Vocations Champions are also there to promote the wider vocations and careers within the Church of England. Often a lot of our time is focused on encouraging young people to be aware of and to explore the full range of careers available from authorised ministries through to teaching opportunities within our church schools. It is a particular fruit, when we are talking with a group of young people, to see their perceptions of the church change and their horizons broadened on the impact and importance of a Christian presence within our communities and our schools.
The Revd Andy Muckle
Diocesan Young Vocations Champion and Curate Assistant, Gillingham Team Ministry
First Published on http://www.salisbury.anglican.org/news