Commission on Ministry (COM)
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One goal of the Commission on Ministry (COM) is to provide a journey in formation that is based in the baptismal ministry of all persons, focuses on the spiritual and personal development of those considering ordination, and is guided by the leadership needs of this diocese and the Church at large. At the same time, it has been our desire to design and model interactions with interested persons and congregations that respect the diversity of our diocese and the wide range of skills, life experiences, and individual callings of those who approach COM for consideration.
The Commission on Ministry (COM) of the Episcopal Diocese of Maine offers this manual to those seeking to develop their baptismal call to ministry. It provides for the discernment of the ministry of all the baptized who are actively seeking a role in Christ’s service. The discernment process inquires about the skills, abilities, and spiritual understanding of the person within the context of this call to ministry.
We utilize the book ‘Listening Hearts’ as a part of the framework of the program ( Farnham, Gill, McLean & Ward; Moorehouse Publishing, 2011). The process is based in the Quaker Clearness Committee model and provides for deep consideration of what God calls us to do.
With strict adherence to Title III of the National Church Canons, two basic processes have been developed for moving toward Holy Orders: one for ordination to the Diaconate, and the other for ordination to the Priesthood (including a period in the Transitional Diaconate).
After you have engaged in comprehensive conversations with your priest about your sense of call, the next step is to complete a period of organized discernment in your congregation. Your priest will form a small group of parishioners and others to assist you in hearing and testing your call to ministry. A discernment leader will be appointed, and your priest will provide direction and supervise the process. If your priest has questions about creating a discernment group, or the discernment process, please ask them to be in touch with The Ven. Aaron Perkins. Near the end of your discernment period, usually about the four month mark, please contact Barbara Martin in the Bishop’s office to make an appointment with Bishop Lane to further explore your sense of call.
We are grateful that you are responding to a possible call to serve God as a Deacon or Priest. No matter how the discernment process turns out for you, this process of hearing a call confirms that you are called to committed service as an essential member of the Body of Christ. All the people who enter this process with you will give of their time, energy and prayer to help you discover just what this call is about.
Even if your sense of call is clear and strong, we hope you will remember that this process is about discernment in community. This will help you stay open to those tough questions and challenges that this journey will demand.
It is your job to know the process, ask questions, clear up confusion, and get help from many sources. We know that this process seems long and sometimes cumbersome. We promise our best efforts to prevent unnecessary obstacles and unexpected delays. We urge you to practice faithfulness and use this time to foster a deepening exploration into a life with Christ.
The Order of Deacons
The word deacon comes from a Greek word diakonos meaning "servant" or "envoy." The unique role of the deacon among the ordained is to represent Christ and his redemptive love in the world and to interpret the needs, concerns and hopes of the world to the Church. The role of Deacon requires unique gifts and formation, serving as an "ordained messenger of the faith" outside the walls of the congregation. Deacons model how to be in the Church and in the world as servants, and they have the ability to inspire that life in others. Deacons help the laity to be free to find places of connection with God in their lives beyond Sunday morning. Deacons are not those who alone do the work of the Church in the world; rather, they gather, lead, equip, and inform the laity in that work. In all their work, Deacons enhance the ministry of the laity, not supplant it.
Deacons must be academically trained in Holy Scriptures and able to integrate scripture into their diaconal ministry and the liturgy, often including preaching. They must be conversant in Christian ethics and societal issues. Deacons must be well versed theologically and translate through their work the Church's understanding of the Paschal mystery, the Incarnation, Baptismal servanthood and Eucharistic community.
Because in this Diocese the diaconate is non-stipendiary, those who are called to this ministry must exhibit the energy necessary for a full schedule of work both in and outside the Church. Deacons serve under the authority of the Bishop and are assigned in the Diocese of Maine where needed. Deacons will be expected to live a Rule of Life, which includes prayer, immersion in Scripture, self-examination and regular study. Deacons will seek regular continuing education opportunities in order to grow in their vocation. Lastly Deacons will participate in the diocesan community of deacons as fully as possible.
The Order of Priests
The ministry of the priest, as a representative of Christ and the Church, is customarily, though not exclusively, within a designated congregation where the priest serves primarily as celebrant of the sacraments and transmitter and interpreter of the tradition of the faith. The priest is also a participant in the collegium of presbyters and assists the Bishop in the councils of the diocese. Essential elements for this ministry are prayer, reflection, study, teaching, preaching, so that the sacerdotal life is lived with integrity and depth. In the hands and heart of the Priest should reside such a love of Christ and the Church that others are drawn into the grace of a spiritual life.
The priest is also responsible for administration and institutional community building. A priest is a representative, calling forth the priesthood of all believers and providing an example of a faithful life in Christ. Perhaps the greatest challenge for today's priest is to lead the Body of Christ in living out its mission in the world. The priest must be able to equip the saints for their ministry, not just in the parish, but in the wider world where God-talk and servanthood are alien and risky.
We believe that it is fair and helpful to all who take part in this process for us to be clear about the qualities and attributes we seek. First of all, the deacons and priests we seek must be committed to knowing and following Jesus, the Christ, and showing strong signs of growth toward maturity as Christians.
We believe that a person called to ordained ministry must:
• Firmly believe the vows you will take at ordination regarding the Holy Scriptures and conformity to the doctrine, discipline and worship of the Episcopal Church: be willing to accept the authority of the Bishop, have an open mind and loving heart for those within and outside our Church as well as for all who faithfully struggle with their beliefs.
• Show ability to offer leadership in the Church and in the outside world. This would include the capacity to offer an example of faith and discipleship, to collaborate effectively with others and to guide and shape the life of the Church community in its mission to the world as community-builders, competent administrators, and reconcilers.
• Be able to speak of his or her vocation to ministry and mission. This sense of vocation will be obedient, realistic, and informed.
• Show an understanding of the Christian faith and a desire for a deeper understanding. Be in love with the faith, being formed by the Anglican tradition and always open to mystery and God's new revelation. Have a vision of what the community of faith might become and an energy and enthusiasm to inspire others. Delight in shared ministry. Demonstrate personal commitment to Christ and a capacity to communicate the Gospel.
• Show evidence of a commitment to a spiritual discipline, involving individual and corporate prayer and worship. Be able to create a sense of harmony, order and reverence which draws people into the presence of God.
• Be sufficiently mature and stable to show ability to sustain the demanding role of an ordained minister and to face change and pressure in a flexible and balanced way. Know how to get and receive consultation and personal help when needed.
• Demonstrate self-awareness and self-acceptance as a basis for developing open and healthy professional, personal and pastoral relationships as ministers. Possess a sense of humor, reflecting trust and delight in God's surprises. Show respect for the tradition of the Church on matters of sexual morality and other ethical issues.
• Have the necessary intellectual capacity and quality of mind to undertake a course of theological study and pastoral preparation.
These qualities will be most obvious in well seasoned individuals, though no one is expected to possess all of them. In those who are still very young, we will seek a particular hunger to grow in these areas. We hope that we will always make room for the godly mavericks who will never fit a checklist.
Because the training and nurturing of postulants and candidates require a considerable commitment of time and energy from the Diocesan community, it is impossible for the Diocese to accept all persons who might qualify for Holy Orders. In selecting Postulants, COM will also consider the particular needs of this Diocese as they may be manifested at various times.
Who to Contact if you have Questions
Help with Discernment
Applications for Postulancy Interviews
Commission on Ministry Members