With our next LifeCall Ordination evening happening on May 20th we spoke to Bishop Cyril Ashton, Assistant Bishop in our diocese about why these evenings have such importance and his personal reflections on hearing that call.
Bishop Cyril has a wealth of experience of vocations. With a life in ministry starting with a curacy in Blackpool in the late 60’s the Bishop has held a variety of roles including Vocations Secretary for CPAS and Vicar at St Thomas Lancaster for 16 years. Bishop Cyril was then Director of Training for the Diocese of Blackburn before becoming Bishop of Doncaster in 2000. Since his retirement in 2011, the self-confessed motorcycling enthusiast has been an associate bishop for our diocese.
Yet if his parents had had their way he would have been an accountant. That was the early direction he was pointed towards but it never felt right “I had an inner sense that God was calling me” Bishop Cyril explained “I wasn’t sure but it felt like the right thing”.
Bishop Cyril confesses he tackled the call in completely the wrong way without a clue about how the discernment process worked. “I didn’t think my church had to be involved, I didn’t realise there was a process – things like this event simply didn’t happen – I just went straight to a theological college and asked to be trained. But fortunately the principal guided me in the right direction.”
Being guided in the right direction is exactly what the LifeCall evening aims to do. “ultimately the call is between you and God, but the church is very good at helping people work out if they are truly being called. I have had numerous interviews with people over the years that have set them on the course to ordination, and countless where it was clear that the person would offer a much more fulfilling ministry in the place where they were.”
So it’s clear that Bishop Cyril sees ordained ministry as a distinct ministry. “it’s about having people who can inspire their congregations. The clergy are most effective when they can catch a vision and inspire others around that vision. They also need to have the emotional maturity to spot the gifts of others, to encourage those gifts and to make sure they are not the ones to get in the way of other’s development.”
Bishop Cyril is certain that this is not simply a recruitment drive for the church. Recognising the issue of retiring clergy he is sure that “God is not going to leave his church without leadership”. And as a passionate supported of lay leadership – in its many forms – he sees the calling to ordination offers a different path. “the theological argument about the sacramental nature of ordained ministry has not diminished – ordination is those with a vision and passion to make a difference” he stresses warming to his theme. “it’s where the clergy are most effective, where they can show leadership and where they can reflect the model of Jesus rather than society’s models.
Bishop Cyril is excited to be introducing this evening. “it is an important part of the discernment process for people to get together, talk to each other and pray with each other as we seek to respond to what could be the most important decision we could make.”