(Photo: How are you being called to service? Bishop Todd Townshend with students from his 'Preacher's Toolbox' homelitics class in the LTh program)
By Rev. Grayhame Bowcott
The wonderful thing about word-of-mouth advertising is that you can never quite be sure of how it’s going to spread or where your reputation can take you!
Over the past few weeks I have watched in wonder as theology courses, hosted through Huron University College’s Licentiate in Theology program, made accessible through Zoom and advertised through social media, suddenly exploded in enrolment by students both within our Diocese and now representing communities as far away as the Yukon and United States.
One course, Understanding Anglican Liturgy, taught by Bishop William Cliff of the Diocese of Brandon, Manitoba, currently has 60 participants representing six different dioceses (five in Canada and one in the US).
The students are comprised of an interesting mixture of lay and ordained. Many of them serve in remote communities and haven’t had access to theological education through traditional styles of learning – travelling to study at a seminary. All of them have articulated a deep craving for theological learning and a desire to put their studies into practice through their service in the Anglican Church.
Over the past seven years that I have been involved in coordinating courses through HUC I have seen a significant uptick in student enrolment, especially among lay leaders wishing to better equip themselves for ministry that they are, more often than not, already doing in their parishes.
You’ve heard the saying: the proof is in the pudding! Take, as evidence of this encouraging trend of growth, the fact that three of our upcoming ordinands to the Diaconate in the Diocese of Huron have been engaged students in the Licentiate of Theology program: Stephanie Donaldson, Gilles Haché and Carol McCurdy. Each of these has sought to enrich their learning through theological education. Each have also been heavily involved in their congregation’s ministries and outreach.
All three of them have chosen to engage in theological education as a means of unlocking their vocational potential. In their courses they have been able to explore key vocational questions: Who is God? Where is God active in the Church? And, ultimately, what is my role in serving God and others through the life and ministries of our Church?
Whenever I am asked about the ways in which we can best equip healthy and growing congregations in the present and future, my go to response has been: identifying the members of our communities who are curious to learn more about God and service to others and then finding whatever ways possible to enable them to access the education they need to feed their curiosity and allow for them to explore their vocation.
I’m convinced that enabling vocational discernment in our congregations is something that Anglicans need to become much better at doing. We often ask the question: where are our future leaders going to come from? I think that God answers this question by causing us to reflect on our own personal vocations. God responds: how are you being called to service?
The starting point for any congregation, whether large or small, is to invest in the vocational leadership of its members. In our Diocese, there are now numerous, affordable and accessible options for equipping leaders. We are blessed to have three colleges: Canterbury, Renison and Huron within our borders. With programming offered by congregational coaches, through courses hosted through the Education for Ministry (EfM) program and in the many online options being offered through Huron’s Licentiate in Theology program, there is an abundance of resources to equip congregational leaders, wardens, lay readers, prayer leaders and potential postulants for ministry.
Interested in exploring your own vocation? I’m happy to connect and share the many possibilities of first steps with you!
Rev. Dr. Grayhame Bowcott is passionate about fostering congregational relationships and sharing our Anglican vocation with others. He serves as rector of St. George’s, The Parish of The Blue Mountains. firstname.lastname@example.org