Friday, February 19, 2010


Vocation... what is my vocation and do I have two of them because my pastoral ministry doesn't pay the bills? In seminary we talked about our sense of call, we all knew what we were talking about, the call to pastoral ministry. Yet we use "vocation" also as synonym for profession or career. This usage of the term is apparently thanks to Martin Luther (so I am told I haven't actually studied this) who took the word to apply to any work because God calls us not only to be religious or clergy but into every part of life and the world. Secular or religious professions can be equally a calling from God. Somehow this sense that God's call is in all walks of life seems to have come to mean that what one is called to will be that by which one earns a living. Or so it seems when I am said to be "bi-vocational" because the pastoral ministry doesn't earn me a living.

I feel that we use this term sloppily, to mean a pastor who either earns all or most of her or his income by means other than ordained ministry. Some pastors who make a living may have a second vocation or profession that earns them a living, but not all. I do not have a second vocation. I do other things, some more or less related to my pastoral vocation some largely unrelated in order to along with my wife bring together an income we can live on (she makes most of the money we have).

So it seems that somewhere along the line as vocation, as God's call in all of life, came to be associated with the occupation one has in order to make a living. On some level this "secular" connotation of vocation is in tension with the "theological" connotation. My call, my vocation, is pastoral and it is the only one I have, through following that call of God, it currently does not earn me a living. That is not being bi-vocational.

My aunt pointed out recently that this was something like Paul. Which caused me to imagine Paul's reaction if someone would have tried to tell him that he wasn't only called to be an Apostle but equally and seperately a tent maker. Somehow it seems that Paul's occupation served his apostleship, it was a skill something he did in order not to burden those God had entrusted to him. His vocation was singular and all served that vocation as Apostle to the Gentiles. Or so it seems to me, and in the very least even if one could argue that it was not so for Paul it is for me.

This is actually part of my struggle: I sense that all I do, everything I am is being ordered around this call to pastoral ministry and its working itself out in leading the Community of the Holy Trinity and Church of Jesus Christ, Reconciler. Part of my would feel comfortable with the situation in which I could say I have a second calling, to be able to say that I am actually bi-vocational. The singularity of my vocation is a little unnerving, in part because it effects and orients even that which is beyond "church".