Presbyterians lean heavy on the theology of vocation – that understanding that all of us are called by God to certain work. Clergy are “called” to ministry (and then to individual situations which are even called, well, “Calls”) but we believe that nurses, landscapers, librarians, parents… everyone has a calling. Frederic Buechner put it this way: “Your vocation in life is where your greatest joy meets the world’s greatest need.”
I think organizations, like churches, also have callings.
We might try to summarize that call as a “mission statement” or a list of activities or services that we provide to members and others, but what we’re really talking about is organizational vocation.
Sometimes our organizational calling is obvious. I know of a small church that is famous for their potlucks as well as their food program. They delight in providing this hospitality for any and for all… and also offer an incredible selection (especially given their size!) of spiritual formation classes for all ages. When I sat with one of the matriarchs of the church and asked about their corporate vocation, she simply said: “I guess we believe in feeding people”.
“We feed people”.
What a great statement of vocation. It’s not loaded with fancy theological phrases, nor does it take up half a page to say what is at the crux of their mission. Physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually… they FEED people. The wonderful thing about this congregation is that if you were to ask folks in the community around this church, you’d find agreement: this church DOES feed folks.
As we begin to enter the next stage of this pandemic – as we begin to re-enter our churches and repopulate our schedules with activities, consider what it says about your mission in the community. Are you putting your talents and energy into those places where your greatest joy meets the world’s greatest need? Would those outside your walls agree with that assessment?
These next few months are a gift in that they provide us with the opportunity to choose what we will pick back up, and what we will allow to let fall. We know we can’t go back to what was… but we can be deliberate and faithful in discerning who we will be (and Whose we will be).
Who is God calling us to be at this moment, and in this new context?