My name is Steve Ayres. I have been an Episcopal priest since 1980 and have followed an interesting career path over thirty plus years. My vocational journey includes two curacies/college chaplaincies, four interim/priest-in-charge assignments, bi-vocational service as a community development consultant, and one rectorship. I currently serve as vicar of the Old North Church in Boston and Dean of the Boston Harbor Deanery.
My first experience with the church’s vocational discernment process came in seminary when my adviser handed me a CDO (Church Deployment Office, the predecessor to the Transition Ministry Portfolio) form without any direction as to how to fill it out. My home diocese didn’t fully release me to look for work outside the diocese until after my diaconal ordination. At that point, the archdeacon said, “Here is a plane ticket and a job inquiry. If they offer you the job, take it.” The job was a poor fit and lasted only a year and a half.
That experience encouraged me to become a student of Episcopal deployment practices. For twenty five years, I tracked parish profiles on the CDO computer and discovered that parish search committees made statistically predictable choices in the ministry skills section. Designated as our diocesan CDO trainer fifteen years ago, I have taught vocational seminars to clergy and seminarians in Massachusetts and, more recently, through the Clergy Leadership Institute.
My last sabbatical was devoted to expanding my tools for mentoring clergy through their vocational journeys. I studied with Rob Voyle of the Clergy Leadership Institute and have added his insights into Appreciative Inquiry to my own technical analysis of parish search processes.
Self discernment is an important part of Rob Voyle’s introductory seminar and an essential part of my approach to vocational discernment. In Appreciative Inquiry, a self discernment summary is known as a “powerful purpose statement.” A “power purpose statement” is a metaphor for your purpose in life. My statement, based on my lifelong love of paddle sports, is “To help communities and individuals navigate through uncharted waters toward God.” This blog is my attempt to help colleagues in the church beyond Massachusetts navigate their vocational journeys.