Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ And I said, ‘Here am I; send me!’
In recent years, the Church of England has been seeking to better encourage and support young Christians who feel called to serve and minister within it. As we look to the future, seeking to grow our Church in faithful witness to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the gifts and skills of these younger generations will be crucial to making this a reality. In his invitation (which can be found here) to those especially in their 20s and 30s, ++Justin writes:
“We live in challenging times and so much of our society, the Church included, needs the new life that Christ brings… In the light of this need the Church wants to welcome young people and the charisms they bring, gifts which will help us to meet the challenges we face with creativity and innovation.”
In this season of Easter, we are particularly called to reflect on the transformative power of the Resurrection. I have heard it said that resurrection is not a law to be taken for granted in decline; it is a promise to be received by faith in action. The number of young vocations to ordained ministry has grown steadily in recent years. As a community of faith bound in love, we should be looking to plant the seeds of new life for our Church with tenderness and care.
To encourage younger people exploring their sense of vocation, the Church of England has established internships in many dioceses. Called CEMES (Church of England Ministry Experience Scheme), the internship scheme offers placements for anyone between the ages of 18 and 30, who is exploring a calling to ministry. Beginning in September, the scheme runs for an ‘academic year’ of 10 months to the end of the following June.
In 2016/17, 17 dioceses ran the scheme, each with its own flavour, including the Diocese in Europe. In our diocese, churches in Belgium, the Netherlands, and Switzerland hosted interns. Now in 2017/18, we are hoping to build on the experiences of previous interns, supervisors and chaplaincies, and continue CEMES for a third year (details at the end of this blog post).
Josh, Annie, Fiona and Ali, our current interns from 2016/17 finishing in June, have kindly provided some of their reflections on what they have done over the year and how CEMES has impacted on their sense of calling….
A word from Annie Bolger, interning at St Martha & St Mary’s Church, Leuven:
“CEMES has formed my sense of vocation by providing hands-on experience of both the exceptional and mundane aspects of parish ministry. When I refer to ‘exceptional’ ministry, I mean opportunities to accompany parishioners through grief, transition, marriage, and confirmation; opportunities to attend synods and hear how God is moving in the church, opportunities to speak at an ecumenical event on the topic of the Holy Spirit. But equally important has been the ‘mundane’ ministry: the ministry of punctuating each day with the prayer, the ministry of taking meeting minutes, the ministry of washing up after coffee and tea, the ministry of folding orders of service (there is so much folding in the church!). As a young person who has a sense of vocation, it would be tempting to enjoy only exceptional ministry opportunities, but CEMES offers an additional groundedness. For nearly a year, I will have lived with the mundane as well as the exceptional. Through CEMES I gained a realistic sense of the life God has called me to live. As a result, I have been able to confidently say “yes” to God and begin interviews with my DDO. It is exciting for me to have clear next steps for my discernment process post-CEMES, steps which might not have been laid out yet had it not been for this internship.”
A word from Josh Peckett, interning at Holy Trinity Church, Brussels:
“As I came towards the end of my time at university, I had to decide what to do next. This is not always easy for students who have spent three years cocooned in the eccentricities of a university city… However, for a couple of years I had been exploring a calling to ordained ministry, and the feeling of calling, nurtured by Christian life at university, had only grown stronger. But I felt I lacked a practical understanding of how ministry plays out day by day, living and working in a church community. That’s why I applied to do CEMES. I know there are many of my peers who have experienced the same sense of being called to serve, but are unsure about to what and where it is leading them. For them, I recommend CEMES and the Diocese in Europe. I’ve been to synods, on retreat in a Benedictine abbey, led homegroups of all ages, heard about port ministry in Rotterdam, debated faith in a local bar and had fun with great new friends. Amongst all this activity, the important aspect for me is that it helps me gain a deeper understanding of the meaning and outworking of ministry in our Church, in its surprises, mundanities, and eccentricities.”
A word from Fiona Hill, interning at St John & St Philip’s Church, The Hague:
“I formally began to explore what my vocation might be, and whether it lies in the Church of England, in February of 2016. My university chaplain recommended CEMES to me, and it seemed like a great opportunity to discern where God is calling me to serve. CEMES lasts 10 months, and I have been using these months to figure this out through practical experience with the aid of pastoral and theological supervision. During that time, I have been involved in many aspects of life in The Hague and gained greater insight into the opportunities and challenges that exist within the Church. After leaving here in June, I will be taking up the role of Disability Officer for the Diocese of Leeds, which I am very excited about as it combines my previous experience of working with people with disabilities and the experience of working for the Church as a CEMES intern: two of my passions rolled into one job! As I continue down the vocations route, my internship will have stood me in good stead and provided firm ground to build on in the future.”
A word from Ali Speed, interning at Holy Trinity Church, Geneva & La Côte, Switzerland:
“Having 2 placements has helped me to think about the way that the church serves it very diverse members with so many different traditions. I have seen how different styles of church can be important to try to reach as many people as possible in such a multicultural area. In the last few months I have seen how important the church is in the work with refugees and have even had the privilege of helping to prepare some for baptism and help them with their continued journey of faith. I have found that both churches are warmly welcoming to those who come through their doors and are a beacon for Christianity in this region.”
In conclusion, I believe we need to be encouraging young people to think about their future vocation wherever it lies. For some, it may lie in ordination. The CEMES scheme is a practical way in which we can give new graduates a taste of ministry. You’ve read the testimony of some of our interns. I can testify that members of our churches have also greatly benefited from the energy and fresh perspective our interns bring.
Almighty God, you have entrusted to your Church a share in the ministry of your Son our great high priest: inspire by your Holy Spirit the hearts of many to offer themselves for the ministry of your Church, that strengthened by his power, they may work for the increase of your kingdom and set forward the eternal praise of your name; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord. Amen.
For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.
Details of our ministry experience scheme in 2017/18 can be found here.
If you are aged 18-29 and interested in applying, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
This year we are offering internships at chaplaincies in:
- La Cote (near Geneva)
Accommodation, expenses and a stipend of £3,500 is offered.
The induction is at the end of August in Rome, there is a five day pilgrimage to Jerusalem and a concluding residential session in Canterbury at the end of June 2018.
Applications are for the scheme and should be from EU nationals or those with leave to remain.
This is a unique scheme and we would love to meet anyone discerning vocation but not sure about next steps. Local languages not necessary.