CANTON, OH (MW Communications) – On Friday November 21-Saturday November 22, 2008, Holy Assumption Orthodox Church (OCA), hosted 50 participants for a “Called & Gifted” Workshop here. The workshop was presented by Sherry Anne Weddell, the co-director of the Catherine of Siena Institute in Colorado Springs, CO and Fr Gregory Jensen, the priest-in-charge at Holy Assumption. The central theme of the workshop is that by virtue of our baptism, each of us is an essential part of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. All of us, whether lay or ordained, are not only called by Christ to proclaim the Gospel, but we are given unique gifts (charism) that that makes our apostolic and evangelistic call both possible and fruitful.
We are not, in other words, simply passive consumers of religious good, but have been sent out (Gk: apostolos, “someone sent out”, e.g. with a message or as a delegate) by Christ to announce (GK: euangelion, or “good news”) the Gospel or the Good News. The charisms/gifts we receive at baptism are what make it possible for us to do this. These charism, Sherry stressed, are not given to me for me alone, but for you, for your salvation.
Christians are called and gifted by Christ to be men and women for others–and this is true whether we are laypeople, monastics, clergy or hierarchs—we are all of us called to live for others.
Seeing ourselves this way means being willing to see the Church in a new way. The Church is not an end in itself. As Metropolitan JONAH said in Pittsburgh at the All-American Council, what happens at Liturgy is important, but is only about “5%” of what it means to be a Christian. The rest of our Christian life is about how we treat others. This is a very challenging notion for all of us.
As part of the workshop a very simple self-scored paper and pencil test was given to the participants as a place to begin his or her own prayerful discernment of his/her personal vocation. While such a test can’t replace the insight that comes from our spiritual fathers, it does have great practical value in helping us understand the different gifts God may have given us.
Grounding our vocation not in a mere conformity to an external standard but to the prompting of grace in our hearts and confirmed by the Church is something both perfectly compatible with Holy Tradition and often sadly lacking in our work with people in the parish and the seminaries. St Anthony the Great says somewhere that if I would know God I must first know myself. The “Called & Gifted” Workshop is I think a valuable aid in helping Orthodox Christians fulfill the saint’s advice to us.
Click here for a gallery from the workshop