The Equipping Church

Part two

Alistair MacKenzie

 

In the first part of this article a plea was made for churches to rediscover their role as communities designed to help equip and support Christians for everyday discipleship in the world. Particular concern was expressed for churches to explore the connections between faith and daily work: "Most of us spend almost 40% of our waking time at work. In contrast the average Christian spends less than 2% at church during their working years. Yet the church puts most of its energy into that 2%: almost nothing into the world of work (Calvin Redekop)". An important starting place is to encourage Christians to start talking about their experience of faith as it relates to their work. A second essential is to explore biblical and theological themes that address work-related issues. The third area we began to explore was using life-planning resources. We continue this discussion.

 

Bio-social development, family circumstances and career stages.

 

These three factors are dealt with together because we want to look at ways they interact to shape the way a person’s vocation is lived out.

 

In recent years researchers have begun to identify the major developmental stages that people go through in some form or another (see Peterson 1989). Among other things, these researchers have attempted to pinpoint specific transitions, often called ‘crises’, which reflect particularly difficult life tasks. More recently ‘adult’ stages of development have been specifically pinpointed (e.g. Sheehy 1976; 1981; 1995). Edgar Schein in his book Career Dynamics (1978) provides a very useful summary of the major life-cycle issues that a person is usually confronted with and relates these to developments in a person’s working life and their vocational choices. Schein attempts to provide a synthesis of the work of many other theorists and along the way provides a brief introduction to their work (Schein 1978).

 

Schein develops the concept of cycles and stages. According to Schein people should be thought of as existing in a world where there are always multiple issues and problems to be dealt with. He maintains that for most of us in Western society these issues can be divided into three basic categories:

o                                    biological forces and the accompanying age-related social or cultural expectations that make up the bio-social cycle;

o                                    the family cycle in which first our family of origin and then our spouse and children put various demands and constraints on us as well as providing opportunities for nurture and pleasure and growth;

o                                    and a work/career cycle that involves early occupational images, education and training, a working life with many sub stages and ultimately retirement and/or new work or career issues.

Schein goes on to identify the major stages that are identified with each cycle and the general issues and specific tasks that are associated with each stage. What he ends up producing are three detailed check lists, one for each cycle, that can be used to help a person identify the specific issues they might find themselves working through at any particular stage and to locate these issues in an overall pattern of development. Schein makes plain that each cycle contains smooth, even stretches as well as bumpy, obstruction filled stretches. And each cycle is marked by milestones indicating where a person is and what they have accomplished, as well as choice points where a person must decide which way to head. A person may drift or stagnate, but there is basically no stopping or turning back. The movement of life is always forward, linked to the biological clock and cultural norms. Not that these factors are unchanging. In fact, one of the most dramatic examples of changing work patterns is the situation of women, who until very recently were generally forced to choose either family or career, because cultural norms demanded maximum involvement in one or the other during the decade from age 25 to 35.

 

However, recent developments have made it possible for far more women to pursue both options, family and career. This also highlights the way these cycles overlap and interact and Schein portrays this diagrammatically.

 

EXTERNALLY DEFINED CYCLES IN A GIVEN SOCIETY

 

Figure 1. A model of life/career/family cycle interaction

 

Schein’s major hypothesis is that individual effectiveness is lowest when total difficulty of tasks is highest, but greater difficulty also produces greater opportunity for radical growth. (From Schein 1978)

 

The diagram pictures the three cycles in terms of peaks and valleys. A valley is a smooth, but routinely functioning section of the cycle; a peak signifies either an obstacle or a choice point and this poses a task, which a person must deal with. As we have already noted, Schein provides a detailed identification of these tasks and choices for each cycle.

 

If the tasks involve the expenditure of a lot of emotional energy or confronting a crisis, it will make a lot of difference to the individual whether these are spaced out or come simultaneously. For example, if a person marries and takes a first job at the same time, as many university graduates do, he or she is taking on two major life tasks - one in the work/career cycle and one in the family cycle - both of which require significant investments of time and energy. These steps may also be accompanied by the need to set up home in a new city and make decisions about having children. If the investment of time and energy required is beyond what the individual can muster, they may cope by reducing involvement in one or the other cycle, creating a more stressful work or marriage situation, or by finding a new and radically different resolution of the work/family conflict. It is easy to see how a similar convergence of stressful factors from all three cycles might occur for a person working through mid-life issues, attempting to cope with an aging body, more realistic career expectations or a desire to change jobs, and adolescent children or children leaving home.

 

According to Schein, individuals cope differently with the tasks posed by the various life cycles according to their biological make-up, early childhood experiences, socialisation, accumulated experience up to that point and family relationships (Schein 1978). It is not possible to predict with certainty how people will respond. People who have experienced difficulty making adjustments earlier in life may have a more difficult time adjusting later. Yet at the same time many people find in later stages of their lives that they have creative urges and talents they never exercised before. The opportunity to develop new areas of skill, new values and new personality traits is an important part of each life. Schein concludes: "We must develop systems of education and training for adults which not only enable people to accurately diagnose their opportunities for growth, but also teach coping skills which make it possible for them to take advantage of those opportunities once they arise."(Schein 1978)’.

 

It would seem to be people who are working through difficult transition times who are most open to re-examine the direction of their lives and the commitments and values that have shaped their choices. The issues come into sharper focus and can be seen more clearly at such times. Also such times arise because the status quo that has ruled the past is proving itself inadequate to decide the future. New commitments, new values and a different balance are required. It is important that Christian churches understand the sorts of issues that people at different stages are likely to be working through and that they make available resources to help provide encouragement and guidance to people who are negotiating demanding transition times. These can be very important times for re-examining vocational understandings and making new vocational choices. The most helpful popular introduction to these issues written from a Christian perspective is The Career Counselor (Parrott and Parrott 1995). William Bridges (1980; 1991; 1994) and Paul Stevens (1993a; 1993b) also provide useful insights and resources for managing work life transitions.

 

Faith Development

 

In addition to the recent research that Edgar Schein has pulled together relating to bio-social, family and career development cycles, there has also been another movement researching faith development. James Fowler has been prominent in pioneering this work. Fowler uses the concept of vocation as an integrating factor in his understanding of faith development. He maintains that a revived notion of vocation is just what is needed to give rise to a sense of partnership with the action of God that will serve as an integrating principle to orchestrate our changing adult life structures (Fowler 1984: 105).

 

Fowler’s concept of faith development is built on two processes, conversion and development, which taken together constitute, what he calls the ‘dance of faith development’ in our lives. Conversion involves radical and dramatic changes in our centres of value, power and master story (Fowler 1992). Development involves a less radical, maturing evolving, similar to the biological process of maturation. Fowler clearly distinguishes between conversion and stage transition. Conversion is principally about the ‘contents’ of faith; where stage transition is about the ‘operations’ of faith (i.e. the operations of knowing, valuing, and committing).

 

Drawing on the developmental theories of Piaget, Kohlberg, Ericksen and others, Fowler proposes a six-staged progression for faith development which begins at around the second year of a child’s life, although he does recognise the significance of primal faith learned prior to this age. Fowler warns that his is a ‘descriptive’ rather than ‘prescriptive’ theory. While he does describe a generalised faith journey he does not wish to imply that a particular stage needs to be reached or attained. The goal of faith development is not to get everyone to reach the universalising stage of faith, his last stage. Adults equilibrate at various stages, and it is quite clear that people located at each stage can experience a fulfillment of faith. Fowler does not mean to imply that people described at one stage are in some way better or more advanced than those of previous stages. Throughout his writings he is at pains to clarify that each stage has its own integrity, strengths and weaknesses (Fowler 1987). Fowler describes the goal of faith development as being for each person or group to open themselves, as radically as possible - within the structures of their present stage or transition -to synergy with spirit (his later work is more explicitly Christian than his earlier writing).

 

At the same time Fowler also makes plain that for each individual there are a number of significant changes that occur in the faith journey. The development of faith is not a gentle undemanding stroll through life, involving gradual imperceptible maturing, but a series of growth stages followed by radical upheavals in our faith operations. These upheavals that may result in a person moving to another stage of faith development do not necessarily involve a change in the content of one’s beliefs. However, it is clear that the transition between stages is a difficult and often painful process; ‘it frequently involves living with a deep sense of alienation for considerable periods (Fowler 1987)’. People may spend long periods of time and energy ‘transitioning’. Because of the difficulty of the transition process, ‘it is understandable why we defend, shore up and cling to our constructions of the ultimate environment (faith) even when these prove constricting, self-destructive, or distorted (Fowler 1987)’. In fact, Fowler suggests that many people revert to a previous stage rather than face the difficulty, or uncertainty, of the transition. Fowler’s denial that he understands stages of faith as a progression on to more advanced stages would seem to be strained by these remarks, especially as he also refers to people at less developed and more developed stages (Fowler 1987).

 

Fowler also links his stages of faith with what he calls the optimal correlation with the seasons of our lives. He has done this by linking his work with that of Robert Kegan on stages of selfhood. The correlations he makes are as follows:

 

Infancy            Primal faith, incorporative self.

Preschool age Intuitive-projective faith, impulsive self.

Mid-childhood Mythic-literal faith, imperial self.

Adolescence Synthetic-conventional faith, interpersonal self.

Young adulthood Individuative-reflective faith, institutional self.

Middle adulthood Conjunctive faith, inter-individual self.

Middle adulthood and Beyond. Universalising faith, God-grounded self.

 

Fowler maintains that when transition between stages is delayed beyond its normal optimum correlation with the season of a person’s life it becomes increasingly more difficult to make such a transition (Fowler 1987).

 

However, it is important to emphasise again that the goal of pastoral care that employs developmental perspectives is not to try to propel or impel persons from one stage to another. Certainly people should be supported and encouraged to engage the issues of their lives and vocations in such a way that development will be a likely result. But development takes time. Transitions cannot and should not be rushed. Pastoral care will seek to involve people in disciplines and actions, in struggle and reflection, which will keep their faith and vocations responsive to the ongoing call of God. The aim is to help people extend the operations of a given stage to the full range of their experiences and interactions. Integration and reconfiguration of memories, beliefs and relationships in the light of the operations which a new stage makes possible are every bit as important as supporting, encouraging and pacing people in the move from one stage to another (Fowler 1987).

 

Fowler also explores how this view of vocation and partnership with God can be enhanced for people at each stage of development (Fowler 1987). He highlights the challenges for pastoral care at each stage as well as for preaching, Christian education and counselling. He challenges churches to learn to operate in a way that embraces people at different stages of faith so that no one development mode dominates in a way that makes people exploring other modes feel deviant. In order to do this however Fowler suggests that the church itself must have a stage level of aspiration of conjunctive faith. This encourages us to begin exploring the strengths, weaknesses and characteristics of churches of each adult modal development level (see Jamieson 1995).

 

Fowler also explores the relationship between faith and the dynamics of change (Fowler 1987). He acknowledges that challenges to our faith are often precipitated by other events: developmental events, reconstructive events or intrusive market events. As Fowler explores the nature of the changes such events give rise to, the breaking free from old connections or understandings, the disorientation, and the process of reconstruction and growing new understandings, we begin to see how the faith journey that Fowler describes is intertwined with the interaction of the bio-social, career and family development cycles that we noted in Schein’s description previously. Although they do not correspond exactly, they are clearly inter-related and further investigation of this relationship would seem to provide fertile ground for further study. Fowler’s Becoming Adult, Becoming Christian (1984) does begin this exploration for us. In particular, Fowler’s concluding section which isolates the crucial questions about vocation that are posed in young adulthood, middle adulthood and older adulthood. He talks about youth exploring the formation of a vocational dream, the purifying and deepening of vocation in mid-life, and the importance of older people acting as witnesses and guarantors of vocation.

 

This latter concern is also explored by Wiebe, as she probes to find ‘what God has in mind for the older adult (Wiebe 1995)’. Fowler provides a useful description of the way our understanding of vocation needs reprocessing at different stages of development (Fowler 1984).

 

It is essential that the pastoral resources of churches be made available to people who are working through such stages. Times of transition are full of new and important possibilities for growth and for the development of fresh understandings of faith and vocation. Yet most churches have not deliberately equipped themselves for such ministry in any purposeful way.

 

Parrott and Parrott (1995) devote seven chapters to some particular struggles and the specific responses these invite. These include

o        teenagers and career exploration

o        young adults and career decision-making

o        mid-career change

o        post-retirement adjustment

o        surviving a career crisis

o        women and career development

o        special populations and career development

 

The Parrotts recognise the important roles that pastors, counsellors and the faith community can play in offering support and guidance for people wrestling with vocational questions.

 

James F. Cobble also provides a popular introduction to some of these issues in his book Faith and Crisis in the Stages of Life (Cobble 1985). Cobble explores the relationship between faith and career, family life and aging by describing issues people typically face in each decade from their teens to their 70’s and beyond. Cobble is aware of Fowler’s work but takes an approach which could be more easily integrated as an additional faith development cycle within the overall scheme that Schein adopts to describe his bio-social, career and family cycle. Others are certain to consider this too simplistic, but it offers possibilities if not pushed too hard and too far. Whatever conclusions are reached about details, Cobble’s work again highlights the importance of the faith dimension in a person’s life interacting with other dimensions of life including daily work: ‘faith is not an abstract quality separated from the rest of life. It is directly related to life events. Life transitions play a prominent role in the development and expression of faith (Cobble 1985: 145)’.

 

Another recent attempt to explore the connection between faith and work is provided by Janet Hagberg. Hagberg has explored the process of faith development with Robert Guelich in The Critical Journey (Hagberg and Guelich 1995). Hagberg and Guelich, like Fowler, whose work they are aware of, also describe six stages of faith, but follow a slightly different pattern. They develop the idea of faith as a journey: ‘the word journey suggests an image of travel with no instant goal, perhaps meandering, stopping along the way, learning as we go. In my experience, and listening to others’ journey stories this is an apt description of the journey of faith (Hagberg 1995)’.

 

The stages identified by Hagberg and Guelich include

Stage One        The Recognition of God

Stage Two        The Life of Discipleship

Stage Three      The Productive Life

Stage Four       The Journey Inward -

and The Wall

Stage Five        The Journey Outward

Stage Six          The Life of Love

 

Hagberg has subsequently explored in more depth the relationship between these faith stages and the experience of daily work in an article entitled ‘The Faith-Work Journey: Developing and Deepening the Connection Between Faith and Work’ (Hagberg 1993). Hagberg sees faith and work as part of an organic whole: ‘where we are now on our faith journey determines how we behave at work, what our motives are, and how we live our vocational call,’ and ‘we can strengthen the connection between faith and work by consciously applying the skills and talents we use at work to promote our spiritual growth (Hagberg 1993)’. Hagberg goes on to discuss each stage of faith and gives examples of the sort of connections a person living at this stage of faith is likely to make with his or her work, along with the advantages and disadvantages the stage offers. According to Hagberg’s scheme a person can recycle to any of the stages over and over again, and also be in more than one stage at the same time. Hagberg offers a more dynamic understanding of the faith-work connection that is less easy to tabulate than Cobble’s in terms of age groupings. It provides for twists and turns, as well as a linear progression, developing the idea that the faith journey is fluid and flexible, meandering, mysterious and unpredictable. We can move back and forth and all around. We can be in more than one stage at a time in different parts of our lives (Hagberg 1993).

 

For Hagberg the primary usefulness of the stage model is to help people gain an understanding and appreciation of where they are on the faith journey and an appreciation of where others are whose lives seem to be posing different questions and coming out with different answers.

 

In his conclusion to Faith Development and Pastoral Care Fowler (1987) encourages churches to become environments of development expectation. He says we must begin to ‘draw on the rich process imagery our tradition offers in the themes of journey, pilgrimage, wilderness, ship wreck, struggle, rescue, growth from being milk eaters to being meat eaters, healing, the new being in Christ, and the promised land (Fowler 1987: 116)’. He suggests we need to offer more dynamic images of faith and calling in our preaching and teaching. Building on the work of William Willimon and John Westerhoff on liturgy and the life cycle (Westerhoff and Willimon 1980), Fowler urges churches to begin developing liturgical celebrations of rites of passage and to recognize and encourage the development of faith and vocation. Fowler suggests some specific ways in which the forming and renewal and regrounding of vocations can be celebrated by the community of faith for people at different ages and stages. Fowler also proposes that churches begin to offer periodic faith development inventories or checkups. These could be offered in a retreat or spiritual direction format for individuals or groups. Fowler even offers a worksheet for this latter exercise called ‘The Unfolding Tapestry of My Life’ (Fowler 1987). This tool could be usefully employed alongside Schein’s checklists exploring bio-social, career and family development.

 

The Balanced Life

 

One of the most difficult practical challenges that people face in their daily work is maintaining a healthy balance. It is usually a case of how to juggle home and family responsibilities, plus voluntary and church work and leisure pursuits, around the demands of a career in a context where economic restructuring is pressing for more productivity, and often longer hours, from fewer employees. The questions this gives rise to are ‘how can I fulfill all these claims on my time? how do I clarify my priorities? what matters most and what must I let go?’. These are questions that a clear sense of vocation should help to answer.

 

These pressures have increased in recent times with the growth of a more aggressively competitive free-market environment. An international survey of 5,000 office workers in 16 countries, including New Zealand, confirms the common belief that work is the biggest cause of stress in people’s lives (Press 1994). According to Anne Else (1996) people, and especially women, are being crushed by the economy. This is because the entrance of many more women into the paid work force, combined with the expectation that they are still responsible for most of the unpaid work as well, means they simply have too much work, and it is snowballing on both fronts, paid and unpaid. People are struggling to get their lives into better balance inside and outside the home.

 

The experience of many of these women has begun to be documented and makes fascinating reading, particularly in the way that it challenges traditional understandings of vocational roles, identity and the relationship between private and public lives. Several noticeable trends have been documented. These include, a decline in religious beliefs and practices for women who have entered employment (De Vaus 1985); recognition that many women enter the workforce as reluctant conscriptees who would rather be at home with their families (Bastick 1990); and the withdrawal from the workforce of women who have pursued career options (but not out of economic necessity) and now find these much less attractive than they first thought (Albert 1992; Anderson 1994). But women are also deeply aware of other pressures, including the problem of reconciling and integrating public and private lives. Shelagh Cox explains: "In order to live well at home I did things and thought in a certain way. In order to do well in the outside world I became a different person. As long as I kept my two selves separate, I got by. But whatever means I developed for reconciling the two, there was a hidden complexity. The half of my life I was failing to acknowledge was present in the other. Sometimes its presence distracted or disturbed me and sometimes it nourished me. Aware as I was of this double existence, I could make little sense of it and felt I could do nothing about it. I wondered if other people fared better and, if so, how they managed it." (Cox 1987: vii)

 

A book that explores the re-weaving of women’s public and private lives by developing the idea of Christian vocation is Loving and Working by Rosemary Barciauskas and Debra Hull (Barciauskas and Hull 1989). They note that even in evangelical and Roman Catholic circles the tide has turned. Women’s public vocation is no longer being denied. Yet such affirmations mean little if women’s traditional domestic responsibilities remain exactly the same - that is, if some of those responsibilities are not assumed by men and by society at large. They discuss ‘the shared human need we all have to live lives in which we are able to define our uniqueness through our work and affirm our connectedness through our intimate, nurturing relationships’ and conclude ‘when women are denied work and when men are denied intimacy, both women and men fail to achieve their full human potential and all of us are diminished’ (Barciauskas and Hull 1989).

 

For Barciauskas and Hull the answer is to rediscover a view of vocation which provides for both loving and working. However, this is not just an individual, but a societal task. In the mostly ‘feminine’ private world of the home, the primary virtue is self-sacrificing care for others. In the mostly ‘masculine’ public world of work the ethic of individual achievement dominates. Both family and workplace changes are needed to integrate the virtues of individualism and self-sacrifice into a new society. These changes are not only social but also spiritual. Only by more fully realising the Judeo-Christian ideal of Agape love will we be able to forge a future equally committed to loving relationships, family nurturance and humane, productive work. Barciauskas and Hull conclude: "In the end, we are faced with a task that is often a lonely one.....And yet these private tasks are being multiplied by the millions. If the sharing of these personal struggles can lead to solidarity among women and men, the re-creation of a balance of work and family life will be genuinely possible. Values of intimacy and connectedness can become public virtues." (Barciauskas and Hull 1989: 177)

 

Barciauskas and Hull explore how these principles can be worked out in marriages, in family life and developing new patterns of work.

 

Shelagh Cox (1987) develops the idea that men and women’s lives too, are separated. That men belong primarily to the public and women to the private sphere. But the dualism that undergirds this division is now being questioned by women who have found their identities bound up in a new analysis. Cox identifies four different ways the division between public and private spheres has been dealt with:

1.      Allowing women to enter the public sphere.

2.      Rethinking and remaking the private sphere.

3.      Abolition of the private sphere.

4.      Challenging the divisions between the public and the private.

 

The first two rest on the assumption that private and public worlds are fundamental and unalterable divisions. Cox favours the fourth approach. She proposes that we explore the border land between public and private life where inconsistencies in the ideology of separate spheres is revealed and where the contradiction in men and women’s lives can be identified. Rosemary Novitz, in the same book, looks at ‘Bridging the Gap’ between paid and unpaid work (Novitz 1987). According to Novitz, the division between public and private worlds grew in the 19th century against the background of the development of capitalism, industrialisation and the increasing tendency for paid work to be located outside the home. The idea that men ‘go out’ to do paid work while women engage in unpaid work at home was brought to New Zealand by British settlers. And this still persists, for despite the fact that more men are becoming convinced that they should increase the time they spend in child care and domestic work, the burdens of trying to juggle time between the spheres of paid and unpaid work are still primarily borne by women. According to Anne Oakley, women have not been able to develop an alternative model of involvement in both paid and unpaid work which does not carry with it substantial penalties, traps and pitfalls: "For them [women], the problem since the present social structure was established in the 18th and 19th centuries, has always been to reconcile the conflicting demands of home and work in such a way that they appear to be conforming either to the feminine housewife model or to the male career model. An acceptable alternative pattern has yet to be established - either for women or for men." (Quoted in Novitz 1987: 51)

 

Women’s experience of the double burden of paid and unpaid work, and the realization by many men that they do not, and will not, earn a ‘family wage’, lie behind increasing questioning of the inevitability of female domesticity. They also challenge traditional ways of organizing employment and family life. As Novitz concludes: "Many of us have developed individual strategies for combining paid and unpaid work that daily test our ingenuity and our energy. Through these strategies we try to accommodate demands on us as parents, and as the children of our parents, as well as employees, husbands, wives, lovers and friends. Changes to the way paid work is organised and the division of work between women and men (in the home and outside it) are necessary if we are ever to bridge more creatively the gaps between our private and public worlds." (Novitz 1987: 51-52)

 

Elizabeth McKenna is another writer who explores the complexities of women’s relationship with their work. She looks at questions of identity, success, money, meaning and balance. She then goes further than most other women writers to also explore the relationship between work and identity for men. According to McKenna powerful forces are at work changing circumstances for women and men that will take at least another generation for us to work through, and even then only as women and men are able to establish new patterns of partnership.

 

These writers highlight the search for something that will help to integrate and provide a sense of balance in lives that are made up of a variety of disparate activities. This is why something like the doctrine of vocation is so necessary. But the difficulty of combining paid and unpaid work, public and private lives, that we have already noted, makes plain that this is easier said than done.

 

And more complications are added through the work of Christena Nippert-Eng (1996). Nippert-Eng explores home and work issues from the perspective of a sociological study of boundary negotiation in everyday life. According to Nippert-Eng, "Everyone actively and passively makes numerous decisions about whether and how they bring 'work' into 'home' and 'home' into 'work.' These decisions repeatedly push us toward either end of the integration/segmentation continuum, reflecting, reinforcing and challenging the boundaries we place around each realm." (Nippert-Eng 1996: 98)

 

The more we integrate, the more overlap is evident between ‘home’ and ‘work’. The more we segment, the larger the mutually exclusive territory of each realm becomes. This is expressed in the clothing we wear and the artifacts, such as photos and mementos, we associate with each place, the extent to which vacations and leisure activities include both home and work places and people, what we read and where it is read and where it is stored, and whether we discuss work matters at home or personal matters at work. The extent to which associates, artifacts and activities originating in one realm are found in the other is a good indication of the strength of our tendency towards integration or segmentation. Individuals opt for different degrees of integration and segmentation: "Through trial and error, spousal threats, children’s demands, extended family’s expectations, and the pleasing and disappointing of one’s self, colleagues and bosses, we each learn where to draw the lines around home and work, and who we are when we’re in a certain place." (Nippert-Eng 1996: 100)

 

When we add to Nippert-Eng’s home and work categories the additional spheres of community, church, personal and leisure pursuits, and start pondering how we define our vocation in relation to each and all of these, numerous complicating questions arise. Do we see a single integrated vocation being worked out through a combination of these, or different callings being worked out in different spheres? Is each of equal significance or is it the strong pull of one calling that dictates the shape of the other aspects of our lives? Are the boundaries sharp between different spheres of activity or are they quite blurred? We are forced to clarify what we understand to be primary and secondary callings for us. Primary callings give overall shape to our lives. They usually operate in an integrating way, giving expression to what we understand to be the most important elements of our true vocation, in a fashion that is so much a part of us that it will almost inevitably spill over into all other aspects of our lives. At the same time, we may still choose to pursue other secondary callings in what may be a more segmented way.

 

There is no simple universal formula. The mix and extent of overlap is different for each person and also different at different stages of life. But it is important that in times of confusion and struggle we do consciously examine that mix, and that we understand the nature and degree of integration and segmentation that we have arrived at. Also that we evaluate the extent to which our primary and secondary callings, as we understand them, have led us to establish a healthy balance that reflects our true priorities at this particular stage of life. This is a process of vocational scrutiny that is likely to result in different decisions at different stages and that regularly needs re-examining and re-negotiating to maintain a good balance. Churches can provide significant help in the process of assisting people to examine questions of purpose, shape and balance in their lives through teaching, personal counsel and public worship that celebrates vocational rites of passage. But more on this next time.

 

We are grateful to Geoff Hall of Bristol, UK, for his work in shaping this thesis chapter into article form, and to Alistair McKenzie for permission to do so.