Our Discernment Communities are a regular space for diocesan-supported discernment for all members of our Church. While this is the primary space where one may explore a call to ordained ministry, these communities focus on listening for the whole church.
All participants are invited to situate their own discernment in the context of how God’s Spirit is calling the Episcopal Church in Western Oregon to a new life together. To that end, we specifically invite laypersons in our diocese to consider participating and clergy to help identify laypeople who may benefit from participating.
Those considering participating as discerners should be in regular communication with the priest-in-charge of their faith community, and applications need to be endorsed by both the vestry (by a two-thirds vote) and the priest of the sending faith community.
Please see the important information below:
- Attend orientation meetings with Canon for Lifelong Formation: Date/Time TBA
- Attend the Diocesan Discernment Communities Retreat: 12:00 p.m. Friday – 4:00 p.m. Saturday
- The retreat is in Eugene on February 2-3, 2024.
- Clergy from sending parishes are expected to attend the retreat through 12:00 p.m. Saturday.
- The bishop and the members of the Commission on Ministry attend.
- Attend 7 community meetings with your discernment community, roughly monthly, virtual or in person, scheduled by facilitators.
- Meetings in 2024 run from February – July.
- Meeting schedule created after cohorts are put together
- Commit to the course of study and the practices connected to the community meetings. Materials for these will be made available through the diocesan office.
- All discerners are required to have a companion from their congregation, identified and invited by both the discerner and the priest-in-charge of their congregation.
- All participants are required to reflect on and commit to the Gathering Covenant.
- Commit to supporting their discerners through prayer, financial support, and ongoing involvement in their discernment via the vestry and priest-in-charge.
- Meet approximately monthly with their priest-in-charge for spiritual and theological reflection and to keep them apprised of their discernment progress.
For those discerning for ordained ministry (and recommended for others):
- Meet regularly with a spiritual director. The diocesan office will provide a list of spiritual directors; discerners may already have their own spiritual director or choose another director. Subsidizing scholarships will be available to discerners based on need.
- Meet regularly with a licensed therapist. The diocesan office will not provide a list of therapists, and discerners are responsible for identifying a therapist that is compatible with their context.
- Attend 3 vestry meetings and provide to the vestry a report. Priests and faith communities have specific spiritual and canonical roles in discernment, which is why these meetings are specifically articulated.
- Attend 3 additional meetings with members of that order. The diocesan office will coordinate those meetings directly with discerners.
Each Community is made up of 3 discerners, 3 companions, and 2 facilitators. In addition to these roles, Discernment Communities require participation by sending communities, vestries in charge of sending communities, and clergy in charge of sending communities.
These communities are designed to facilitate deep discernment in our Church for the discerners who apply to participate and in the context of the wider, ongoing discernment for which our Church is responsible. Because of this, discerners make the most significant investment of time and heart into this work. The commitments outline the primary responsibilities. Discerners may also be invited to meet separately with the Commission on Ministry and/or the bishop.
Each discerner will, with their priest-in-charge, invite 1 companion from their sending community to accompany them through this time.
- Companions will accompany discerners through most aspects of discernment.
- Companions will be involved in all community commitments except for the discerners’ meetings with their priest, therapist, and spiritual director.
- Companions will support discerners in their regular communication with their sending communities, represented by the vestry.
A team of facilitators will guide the Discernment Communities and liaise with the Commission on Ministry and the Missioner for Lifelong Formation. Facilitators will be supported by diocesan staff during the time of discernment.
Sending communities have a deep role in discernment and are invited to support discerners through regular prayer and financial support. The appropriate representatives of sending communities are their vestry and priest-in-charge.
- The vestry (by a two-thirds vote) and the priest must endorse the discerner’s application.
- Recognizing that many of our communities are experiencing financial instability, we will provide subsidizing scholarships, and we also expect communities to provide financial support when possible and in conversation with their discerner.
- Travel to the retreats, spiritual direction, and therapy may require financial assistance.
- Vestries are invited to remember discerners in regular prayer and encouragement and are required to meet three times with and receive reports from discerners.
- At the end of this time of discernment, vestries are responsible for affirming their results.
Like vestries, priests-in-charge of sending communities have canonical responsibilities in discernment.
- Priests are responsible for meeting with potential discerners for initial discernment and recommending potential applicants to the Commission on Ministry.
- Priests will be involved and informed throughout the time of discernment. Discerners are responsible for setting up regular meetings with their priest, and priests are responsible for ensuring that those meetings occur.
- At the end of discernment, priests are responsible for affirming the results of the discernment they have supported.
There are several purposes or outcomes related to this new discernment practice. Diocesan Discernment Communities are intended to:
- Teach and practice ongoing whole church discernment as an element of healthy communities
- Facilitate a regular space to discern calls to lay and ordained ministry in Western Oregon
- Be the primary space for the bishop and Commission on Ministry to identify and invite priestly and diaconal postulants
- Identify formational pathways to support laypersons in their ministries