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Whom shall I

As part of its summer programme, the diocese of Jerusalem hosted a vocational conference for young people. Rev George Vidiakin was part of the clergy team. He is in conversation here with John Holdsworth.

The service leadership team by the side of the river JordanThe Provincial Leadership Programme titled ‘Whom shall I send? – the call to serve in Jerusalem and the Middle East’ was a workshop organized by the Anglican diocese of Jerusalem and funded by USPG. Its main purpose was to gather together young people from across the province and help them discern ways to serve God both as ordained or lay ministers. The programme was very rich and consisted of church services, talks on call, spiritual gifts and ministry, excursions to some of the key Christian sites of Jordan and other historic locations; and visits to educational institutions run by the diocese: the Theodore Schneller school in Amman, and the Arab Episcopal School in Irbid. The main thread of the event was personal stories of God’s call.

JH: Who was there?

GV: Young people from Nablus, Doha, Dubai, Sharjah, Manama participated in the workshop. The coordination team included Archdeacon of the Gulf, the Venerable Michael Mbona, clergy and lay members from the diocese of Jerusalem and the diocese of Cyprus and the Gulf, under the leadership of Joel Kelling, regional facilitator of the Anglican Alliance.

JH: What was the purpose of the event?

GV: To help young participants discern if they have a taste for ministry by listening to different personal stories of God’s call, by doing group discussions and exercises on discerning spiritual gifts, by reflecting on designated Bible stories of God’s call such as Jesus and his disciples, John the Baptist, Mary, Moses, Elijah, Jeremiah, and Ruth. It included a visualisation exercise in the Ignatian style, by creating a ‘spiritual coat of arms’. Apart from all this there was an intention to bring together Christians from all over the province.

JH: What was innovative about it?

GV: The approach to the theme and the way to unfold it seemed quite innovative to me. It was very inventive to unite into one schedule, theological aspects of God’s call and its social dimension through the examples of schools we visited. Both schools play a very important role in the local community. Theodore Schneller school with its vocational training helps its students get necessary skills for further professional development in different practical fields while the Arab Episcopal School serves blind and low-sighted students along with sighted and provides an inspiring example of inclusive education. Travel to different important Christian and historic sights helped very much in team building as well as widening participants’ knowledge of the history of our faith in its cradle, the Middle East.

JH: What will you remember personally from the workshop? 

GV: On the very first day of the workshop Archbishop Hossam Naoum presided in the Holy Eucharist and gave a talk on his own story. He said

the heart of every ministry is the importance to serve people around us and to serve God. 

I had the opportunity to tell the story of my own realisation of call, which is something perhaps we don’t often do or reflect on, and it received useful feedback. I enjoyed preparing my Bible reflection and the service of compline which I presided (it was a real night prayer which started around 12:30 am)!

JH: What surprised you? 

GV: I was not very much familiar with the genre of personal stories about God’s call. And I was surprised how diverse, dramatic, colourful, exciting and just interesting they can be.

Joel Kelling and Archbishop Hosam Naoum sitting at a table during the conference
Joel Kelling and Archbishop Hosam Naoum 

JH: What energised you?

GV: Each personal story of God’s call to ministry was truly remarkable. It was really stunning that people were talking about life-changing events and really hard times in their lives but all of them, it was obvious to anyone, were absolutely happy and didn’t regret the choices they made in their journey of faith.