Gifted and called: The expanded Period of Discernment
Paragraph 13 of the Basis of Union has long been one of my favourites. At its heart is the belief that all of us are gifted and all of us are called. Based closely on the words of 1 Corinthians 12 which explores the metaphor of each of us as individually gifted members of the one body, this paragraph reminds us of the diversity of our gifts, and that there is no gift without its corresponding service. It is the idea that each and every one of us has gifts, talents and capacities, and in turn, each and every one of us is called to use those gifts to serve God in the Church and the world.
It would be convenient and easy if we believed that only a few are called to ministry – those perhaps who are called to capital m, “Ministry”. It would let us off the hook then, wouldn’t it? If we could leave ministry to those called to lead from the front? And yet, this is not what we purport as a church. We affirm that all of us have a part in the ministry of Christ, all of us are gifted and all of us are called. Not only this, but also that we will order our life as the church in response to God’s call.
This is why we are expanding the Period of Discernment as a congregational tool for all members of the Uniting Church. The PoD has developed a bit of a reputation as being the pathway (or gateway) towards ordination. Unfortunately, this has meant that many do not even consider the idea of doing a PoD because they don’t sense a call to Ministry-leadership. This has meant they have not engaged in the rich support of a PoD for their own journey of discernment of what their gifts are, and how God might be calling them to use these gifts in the church and the world.
I wonder when the last time was that you considered what your gifts are, and what God is calling you to do with these gifts in this season of your life? Perhaps now is a good time for you to consider a PoD. Are you entering a new season of life, feeling unsettled or directionless? Are you finishing school, entering retirement, returning to work after parenting young kids, or working out how to keep being you and a parent at the same time? Are you new to church and curious about how you can serve your congregation with the gifts you have? Are you wanting to enrich your current career with a deeper sense of mission?
Wherever you are in your life at the moment, a Period of Discernment is an enriching support for your discipleship journey.
The newly shaped PoD leans much more into discernment rather than the previous model of learning. You may choose to do some study or workshops, but it isn’t a requirement. At its core, the PoD is an intentional action-reflection process, where you will engage with intentional discernment and then reflect on this with a mentor. There is also no set time limit for how long or short this needs to be. Whilst we all are on a journey of discernment as disciples of Jesus and pilgrims on the way, the PoD enables us to engage with a community of discernment, with a mentor, our Congregation, Presbytery and the Synod, so that we are not alone but rather discern in community.
A few of the other new offerings in the PoD space include:
- Discernment Retreats – all are invited to the next Discernment Retreat, held at CFM in North Parramatta, 18 to 20 January 2024 – a great way to start the year with a time of pause and reflection.
- Cohorts of Podders (collective noun for those doing a PoD!) who connect over Zoom and share the journey together
- A dedicated Phase One program for those doing a PoD who do wish to explore leadership gifts and potentially a pathway to formation for ordination.
- A quarterly newsletter to all Presbytery PoD representatives, mentors and Podders with up to date information about discernment offerings and resources (email Pod@nswact.uca.org.au if you would like to receive this newsletter).
- The invitation for groups to do short PoDs together – perhaps a church council, PRC, worship team or the like, who wish to explore what their individual and collective gifts are, and how they can work together to use these gifts to serve most effectively
Period of Discernment Co-ordinator