Discernment. It’s not only a process for those who want to become a priest or a deacon, nor is it a ploy to figure out how to get more people to volunteer in church ministries.
Discernment is for every one of us walking on the Way of Love, doing their best to figure out where God is calling them next.
Discernment is listening for the voice of God in our big crossroads moments, as well as in our everyday decisions.
Discernment is exploring our God-given gifts – even those that aren’t specifically “churchy.”
All of us contribute so much to the tapestry of our shared Christian community, but equally we bring our gifts to our home life, to our workplaces, to every person we meet.
What gift do you have that God might be calling you to share? Where is the place where, in the words of Frederick Buechner, your deep gladness meets the world’s deep hunger?
At its heart, discernment is an act of faith: that God is alive and moving in your life at this very moment - and has dreams for you that you can’t yet dream for yourself.
Ready to get outside your own box?
Here are some different places to start:
Start a conversation
|| Make an appointment with your priest or deacon to share your questions and thoughts.
Join a small group of fellow discerners
|The Wayfinders discernment ministry is based here in Maine, created and led by COM member Darreby Ambler. On a Wayfinders team, a small group of parishioners (4-6 people) come together on a retreat to listen to where God might be calling each of them next. From that discernment, each one chooses a goal to bring to life. Then for 8 meetings afterward the teammates support each other and hold each other accountable as they take their first steps toward where God is calling them. Wayfinders teams build tremendous fellowship - and are just a lot of fun! To inquire, drop a note to Darreby at . FMI www.wayfinders.me Note: Wayfinders is free, with a small materials fee.
Go on a 9 month retreat during your everyday life
|Manresa Way - an Ignatian Spirituality Ministry
Based in Kennebunk, this ministry leads retreatants through the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola. Retreatants develop a closer, more personal relationship with Jesus, as well as an opportunity to discern God’s call. The spiritual exercises are offered as a retreat in the world: retreatants experience daily prayer using scripture as a guide, as well as meet once a week for 30 weeks from October to May. Those weekly sessions include private time with your prayer guide, as well as mutual prevent anyone from doing the retreat.) Please contact the Reverend Gail Chandler at St. David’s Kennebunkvia email () or by phone 207-229-9983.
Try one of these retreats or other educational opportunities
Companions of Holy Cross Adelynrood
Adelynrood is a retreat center in Byfield Mass (a few miles over the NH line) owned and operated by The Society of the Companions of the Holy Cross. They offer women and men an opportunity to visit and to discover new resources for spiritual development through conferences and workshops, as well as individual or group retreats, and quiet days. Adelynrood also has private rooms available mid-May through September for individuals who would like to spend unstructured time in a community of prayer and hospitality.
| The Society of St. John the Evangelist (SSJE) Emery House
Located on the border of West Newbury and Newburyport, Emery House provides a quiet atmosphere for prayer, reflection, and retreat in the context of a monastic community.The Brothers living at Emery House are pleased to offer hospitality, meals, and occasional spiritual direction for those on individual and group retreats. Guests are also invited to join in the Brothers’ daily worship (Morning Prayer, Holy Eucharist, Evening Prayer, and Compline), which follows The Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church.
To book a retreat, please contact the Guesthouse Manager at or go to https://www.ssje.org/about-emery-house/
| The Alcyon Center on Mount Desert Island
The Alcyon center is a non-denominational center for “cultivating contemplative action for the sake of the world.” Their offerings include:
• Alcyon Sampler Weekends NEW IN 2019 Come for an overnight Alcyon experience—joining as you wish in Quiet Day, Soul Friends, morning sit and conversation, spiritual direction and labyrinth walk.
• Personal Retreats
• Courses and Retreats in spiritual practice
• Contemplative Spiritual Direction Training
• Spring and Fall Volunteer Work Weeks
• Weekly Bible Reflection
• Monthly Quiet Day and Soul Friends
Have a single question you are wrestling with?
Sometimes we are looking for God’s guidance around a single question, such as a new job opportunity, a challenge that has landed in your lap, a personal decision. The Listening Hearts discernment process creates a space where people can wrestle with a question, or a series of questions. Our diocese currently uses the Listening Hearts technique for people discerning a call to ordained ministry - but the technique is for any person of faith listening for God’s voice.
What you need:
5 people you can gather round you to help as listeners
A Trainer: Please contact Aaron Perkins or Darreby Ambler at (available after February 2020)
A Book: Listening Hearts: Discerning Call in Community by Joseph P. Gill, R. Taylor McLean, Susan M. Ward, and Suzanne G. Farnham
A full afternoon
Pick up a book
Discernment by Henry Nouwen
In Discernment, Nouwen teaches us how to read the signs of the times; in daily life in order to make decisions that are ultimately guided by God. Nouwen emphasizes listening to the Word of God—in our hearts, in the Bible, in the community of faith, and in the voice of the poor. Nouwen's thoughts on discernment begin to answer one of the biggest questions we face: what should I do with my life?
Listening Hearts by Suzanne Farham
Written to make the often elusive and usually clergy-centered spiritual practice of discernment accessible to all people, Listening Hearts features simple reflections and exercises drawn from scripture and from Quaker and Ignatian
A Hidden Wholeness by Parker Palmer
The soul is generous: it takes in the needs of the world. The soul is wise: it suffers without shutting down. The soul is hopeful: it engages the world in ways that keep opening our hearts. The soul is creative: it finds its way between realities that might defeat us and fantasies that are mere escapes. All we need to do is to bring down the wall that separates us from our own souls and deprives the world of the soul's regenerative powers.
—From A Hidden Wholeness
Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life by Richard Rohr
In Falling Upward, Fr. Richard Rohr seeks to help readers understand the tasks of the two halves of life and to show them that those who have fallen, failed, or gone down are the only ones who understand up. Most of us tend to think of the second half of life as largely about getting old, dealing with health issues, and letting go of life, but the whole thesis of this book is exactly the opposite. What looks like falling down can largely be experienced as falling
upward. In fact, it is not a loss but somehow actually a gain, as we have all seen with elders who have come to their fullness.
The Holy Longing: The Search for a Christian Spirituality by Ronald Rolheiser
In The Holy Longing, Ronald Rolheiser probes the question “What is spirituality?”, cutting through the misunderstanding and confusion that can often surround this subject with his trademark clarity. Using examples and stories relevant for today, and with great sensitivity to modern challenges to religious faith, he explains the essentials of spiritual life, including the importance of community worship, the imperatives surrounding social action, and the centrality of the Incarnation, to outline a Christian spirituality that reflects the yearning and search for meaning at the core of the human experience.
The Sacred Fire: A Vision for a Deeper Human and Christian Maturity by Ronald Rolheiser
With his trademark acuity, wit, and thoughtfulness, Rolheiser shows how identifying and embracing discipleship will lead to new heights of spiritual awareness and maturity. In this new book, Rolheiser takes us on a journey through the dark night of the senses and of the spirit. Here, we experience the full gamut of human life, pleasure and fervor, disillusionment and boredom. But, as Rolheiser explains, when we embrace the struggle and yearning to know God we can
experience too a profound re-understanding to our daily lives.
Download a copy of the discernment resources above as a pdf here.
Who to contact with questions
For more information, guidelines and help of any sort: Canon Barbara Martin,
For information about the discernment process: The Venerable Aaron Perkins, Archdeacon
For information about the role of the Commission on Ministry: The Rev. Kit Wang, Chair, Commission on Ministry (COM)
For information about the diaconate, or the Deacon Formation Program: The Venerable Aaron Perkins, Archdeacon