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Some came wondering if they were called to vocational ministry. Some came to discover what kind of ministry they might be called to. Others came to reflect on God’s will for the next step in their lives.

Fifty-five discerners from many denominations, generations, and walks of life gathered at Calvin Theological Seminary on May 5 for the first annual “Discerning Your Calling” retreat.

 “We don’t expect 55 epiphanies,” the retreat leader, Pastor Heidi De Jonge, told the group at the outset. “But here’s what we do expect—or at least what we pray. We pray that you will meet God and will come away with some resource, some piece of the truth, some light on your path.”

The retreat began with a get-acquainted dinner and a concert by singer/songwriter Jack Du Mez. Saturday’s portion of the retreat was framed by worship services led by members of the Calvin seminary and college communities.

Between these times of worship, the discerners heard a variety of presentations. Theology professor David Rylaarsdam grounded “calling” in its biblical and historical roots and reminded the group that the Christian’s first calling is always to a life of discipleship.

Pastoral care professor Ron Nydam discussed the five qualities needed to flourish in ministry. Heidi De Jonge and her husband, Tim, spoke about discerning which kinds of ministries one might be called to.

One of the most valued hours of the day was the time set aside for quiet individual discernment. Pat

Zandstra, a specialist in formation for ministry, introduced the group to a discernment tool to help them listen to God’s voice. Each person then found a quiet corner in the building or a shady spot under a tree to reflect, discern, and worship God.

Many participants expressed their appreciation for the retreat. One wrote, “This retreat has not only affirmed what I originally had thought about the course of my future, but also opened my eyes to the fact that I might end up as a full-time senior pastor.” Another said that although his future is still not clear, he faces it now with a deeper sense of peace.

Rylaarsdam pointed to Parker Palmer’s definition of vocation: that it is not a goal to be achieved but a gift to be received.

Recordings of the Rylaarsdam and Nydam presentations are available to listeners on the CTS website:

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