iPlayer Radio What's New?
Image for Called Together

Sorry, this episode is not currently available on BBC iPlayer Radio

Called Together

40 minutes
First broadcast:
Sunday 29 April 2012

Called together. From Old Testament prophets to Mother Teresa, men and women from across the centuries have felt God is calling them to speak out and to minister to God's people. Michael Ford, a former journalist, leads the service. A number of students from Ripon College, Cuddesdon reflect on how they felt called to ministry from a variety of careers and backgrounds. The principal, the Revd Canon Professor Martyn Percy looks at how that sense of calling is tested and how it can extend to other careers and other paths.
Producer Clair Jaquiss.

  • Sunday Worship - Cuddesdon 29/04/12

    Please note:

    This script does not fully reflect the transmission as part of it was unscripted.

    Set on what’s known as God’s Holy Hill, this neo-Gothic building in the middle of the rolling Oxfordshire countryside might seem almost incongruous. With its turrets and towers, and maze of stairways and corridors, it could almost be a castle on the Rhine. But this college, dominating the village of Cuddesdon, has been training people for ordained ministry in the Church of England since 1854. In the early years only 12 men were in formation.

    Today, more than 200 residential and non-residential students from many different backgrounds, have been called together to prepare for a new life, set apart just like the priests and prophets of old.

    MUSIC: Composer: Jacques Berthier/ Taizé
    Recorded on location
    Published: Ateliers et Presses de Taizé,



    Sam Cross, former Magician and entertainer, Sheena McMain, former General Practitioner, Susikaran James, Alastair Blaine, former teacher

    Composer: Jacques Berthier/ Taizé
    Recorded on location
    Published: Ateliers et Presses de Taizé,

    MIKE: I’m one of four journalists here training for the priesthood. In front of me a new oval-shaped chapel is being built - behind the scaffolding, this window here will look out right through the trees and right into the heart of the local countryside. Each day the construction work reminds me that we, too, are being reshaped and remoulded – here we’re all works in progress. My fellow students will be taking part in this morning’s worship and talking to me about their sense of calling. But vocation isn’t only about becoming a priest. Vocations Sunday is an opportunity for all churches everywhere to reflect, discover and recognise God’s invitation to all of us.
    HYMN: LORD FOR THE YEARS CD Songs of Praise Tr 14 2’30
    CD Title: Highlights from Songs of Praise
    Artist: John Scott (organ) Paul Leddington Wright (conductor)
    Composer: M Baughan; Arr. D Iliff, J Barnard
    Publisher: Jubilate Hymns
    Record label: Marks and Spencer PLC


    MIKE: God invites us to follow Christ to declare the wonderful deeds of him who has called us out of darkness into his marvellous light. God has promised in living power to remake us. And here each day in the intimate college chapel where Christ in glory looks down from the east window, we pray and worship together early every morning.

    Let us confess the times when we have failed to heed God’s call.

    Lord Jesus, you said to your apostles: ‘You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you.’ Lord have mercy

    Lord Jesus, we know the harvest is plentiful but the labourers are few. Christ have mercy.

    Lord Jesus, you appointed us to go and bear fruit that will last. Lord have mercy.

    MIKE: May Almighty God forgive us our sins and lead us to everlasting life. Amen


    MIKE: Here on the lawn we indulge in a little croquet from time to time. On the face of it, it might seem a genteel distraction from training but, as I’ve been discovering, the matches can bring out a more competitive side to ministerial formation.


    MIKE: It was none other than Archbishop Rowan Williams who once said that “Vocation is what’s left when all the games have stopped.” Each of us is on a unique journey so vocation is always personal. But whatever form it takes, its ultimate goal is transformation in God. When we respond to a call, we have to be prepared to be changed. We’re no longer in control. And we learn obedience the hard way – through sacrifice, struggle and, above all, a willingness to be, well, vulnerable.

    This may be true of any vocation whether you feel called to a career in education, medicine, business or industry. But vocation may not be for life. For many years I felt a distinct calling to be a journalist. Then my vocation seemed to change - and eventually I made it here.

    HYMN: I THE LORD OF SEA AND SKY CD Sing for Joy Tr 9 3’37
    CD Title: Sing for Joy, Cathedral Praise 4
    Artist: Chester Cathedral Choir (conductor David Poulter, organist
    Composer: Daniel L Schutte arr. Paul Leddington Wright
    Publisher: Daniel Schutte/New Dawn Music/ Oregon Catholic Press Music
    Record label: ICC ICC0858D


    MIKE: Down the road from the college is All Saints, our 12th century village church where we come for evening prayer and to celebrate the college Eucharist.


    MIKE: On those occasions, when incense wafts up above the altar and into the arches, I’ve often reflected on the responsibility of vocation and our need to be humble before it. The mystery of divine calling is woven into the Hebrew Scriptures. The sixth chapter of Isaiah expresses the prophet’s own experience of it. It’s read now by former teacher Alastair Blaine.
    ALASTAIR BLAINE: In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple … One called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.”4The pivots on the thresholds shook at the voices of those who called, and the house filled with smoke.
    5And I said: “Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”6Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding a live coal that had been taken from the altar with a pair of tongs.7The seraph touched my mouth with it and said: “Now that this has touched your lips, your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out.”8Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” And I said, “Here I am; send me!”

    MIKE: The principal of Ripon College, is Martyn Percy.


    Every Christian has a vocation. But just as every life is unique, so is every calling. No two are identical, and while you can often discern clear patterns and several similarities, in the end it comes down to each individual, their relationship with God, and then to the wider church and world. Wisdom, the mystics tell us, is knowing your place before God. And a vocation is about finding that place, and then knowing what to do next.

    And callings aren’t always instantly recognisable. It is pretty typical of God, if you think about it. He comes to us in unexpected ways: a child in a manger; a still small voice; a thick silence; a bush alight. Not all signs are easy to read.

    And this is perhaps part of what Isaiah is wrestling with when he sees his vision of God. It ends with the oft repeated rhetorical question: ‘Whom shall I send; who will go for us? Here am I. Send me’.

    ‘Send me’? Surely God is kidding. There must be better qualified, nicer folk that God could choose, reasons Isaiah? But the invitation is clear. It resonates with some words Jesus will utter to his disciples hundreds of years later: You did not choose me; I chose you. Which is why a vocation is not like a career. It is simply a life surrendered to God.

    Like Isaiah, we often cannot fathom God’s wisdom, or his reasoning. But vocations often start in marginal places and with ephemeral events.

    LAURENCE POWELL: vocation story

    MUSIC In the Lord I’ll be ever thankful
    Composer: Jacques Berthier/ Taizé
    Recorded on location
    Published: Ateliers et Presses de Taizé,


    JOANNA COLLICUTT: vocation story

    CD title: Paul Leddington Wright presents “Crown Him!”
    Artist: St Michael’s Singers, David Poulter (organ), Paul Leddington Wright (conductor)
    Composer: Orlando Gibbons
    Record label: Kingsway Music KMCD2390

    STEVE MARSH: vocation story

    MUSIC In the Lord I’ll be ever thankful
    Composer: Jacques Berthier/ Taizé
    Recorded on location
    Published: Ateliers et Presses de Taizé,

    Sometimes I need to get away from the intensity of college living, so I sneak off to this stile which gives me a grandstand view of the glorious Oxfordshire countryside with the yellow oil seed rape fields stretching as far as the eye can see. This place speaks to me of the breadth of God’s love for each one of us training here, and the distant horizons of God’s promises for everyone. St Mark wrote about the calling of the first disciples at the beginning of his Gospel, which is set at the water’s edge. It’s read now by Matthew Barrett.
    MATTHEW BARRETT: As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake—for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow me and I will make you fish for people. ’And immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.
    MARTYN PERCY: One of the really arresting things about Mark’s gospel is that you never get time to settle. You don’t have the luxury of the well-drawn out and skilfully crafted stories of Matthew and Luke, or the long conversations and dialogues that John gives us. With Mark, you are straight into the action; and then onto the next scene. And then the next. It is breathless.

    Yet what is so intriguing about Jesus is the range of people he chose to share in this work. It included women and men – and not all of great repute – along with fishermen, tax-collectors and others - hardly the cutting edge of leadership and eloquence. Yet in choosing widely, we gain a foretaste of what the kingdom will be like, and the church might become: a place both of diversity and unity; a true home for all.

    And this is why vocations are so diverse. God does not call any one ‘type’. God calls all types. Some are gifted in particular ways; others bring different talents to the table. So from the very beginning of the gospels, the story about vocations is a testimony to extraordinary range of people that God uses to share in the work of the kingdom.
    Every Christian has a calling. And on Vocations Sunday, what we celebrate and meditate upon is not who God is calling: because that is, in fact, all of us. Vocations Sunday is a day of prayer and discernment to set us thinking about what, where, and to whom our vocation is. The day is seen by many as the one set aside in the Christian year to pray merely for more clergy or pastors. But this is to miss its deeper purpose. It is about you and I – all of us – knowing our place before God here and now, and understanding that God wants us to offer our lives today. Perhaps to visit someone in need; to attend to some pain or neglect for someone in distress; or to be the bearer of consolation and counsel to another. For God has no feet, hands or eyes but those we place at his disposal.

    But if it is true that every Christian has a vocation, what are the next steps? How would you know you were called? How could you be sure? You can’t of course, but there are a few simple things to bear in mind - things we often remind students of here at Cuddesdon.

    First, have courage. Many vocations never take root because of fear. Fear of failure, or of perhaps just of getting it wrong – suppose someone rumbles that I am just ordinary? Suppose I really make a mess of it? But mistakes happen, and I think the best thing we can try to do is learn from these things. Failure is not the worst thing; letting it defeat you is. It takes a special kind of wisdom and courage to face failure and defeat, and to then try and move on from this.

    Second, have patience. The Christian life is a marathon, not a sprint. And vocations are weighed and measured over the entire course of a life, not just a few moments of success or glory. It takes a long time to appreciate just how much God has called us too. It takes daily devotion to see that our calling is not just about affirmation or success, but rather faithfulness. We are not primarily called to win things – even for God; but simply to walk with Christ.

    Third, have humility. A vocation is not about the trappings of power and privilege in ministry. The gospel is about eternal rewards, not the temporal baubles of career or church. The call is that we have our eyes fixed on Jesus, who is, by the way, coming back to do an audit. We do not therefore need our focus to be on a career path. Ultimately, a true vocation is something of a release – not something that is to be grasped.
    This why the Apostle Paul’s well-known phrase is so vital to remember: ‘his power is made perfect in our weakness’. We do not belong to a faith where power finds expression in perfectionism. Or that our vocations – whatever they may be – raise us up several feet beyond contradiction. Rather, we look for the God who is incarnate; who comes to the world, and is found in human form. God uses our weaknesses – the foolish and base things of the world – to bring about change. Which is why he says to each and every one of us today, as he did to the fisherman at the beginning of Mark’s gospel: come, follow me.

    MUSIC I would be true
    CD title: This is the Day - Music on Royal Occasions
    Artist: The Cambridge Singers conducted by John Rutter
    Composer: Irish folk tune, arranged by John Rutter
    Record Label: Collegium Records COLCD 136


    MIKE: It’s in the regular pattern of worship that lives are changed here. This is the oratory, meaning place of prayer, a sacred space with a rough wooden cross, icons and candles. So now we offer our prayers to God with the echoes of an ancient hymn invoking God the Holy Spirit and sung by members of the college choir.

    Tune: Veni creator
    Recorded on location
    Author: John Cosin 1594-1672 based on Veni creator Spiritus
    Publisher: Hymns Ancient and Modern New Standard


    Creator God, we pray for the courage to receive the gift of your calling. Help us to discover your will for us, so that we may give you praise and serve others as we respond to your love for us. Bless also those uncertain of their gifts and those powerless in this world’s eyes, that they may be made strong by the grace of the Holy Spirit

    As I think ahead to my ordination in the summer, my prayer is that we may all have patience as our vocations unfold.

    Lord, I freely yield all my freedom to you.
    Take my memory, my intellect and my entire will.
    You have given me anything I am or have;
    I give it all back to you to stand under your will alone.
    Your love and your grace are enough for me;
    I shall ask for nothing more.

    We pray for those whose vocation is to care for the sick and the dying, especially those who care for children at home or in hospital. And we remember all those suffering in body, mind or spirit in many corners of the world, especially the people of Syria. Father, may your loving compassion give them strength in their weakness and hope in their darkest hour.

    JOHN: The prophet Isaiah in the Temple saw the glory of God and in humility said ‘Here I am. Send me.’

    All Highest and Glorious God
    Cast your light into the darkness of my heart
    Grant me right faith, firm hope, perfect charity,
    profound humility, with wisdom and perception, O Lord, so that I may always and everywhere seek to know and do what is truly your holy will, through Christ our Lord.

    MIKE: We say together the Lord’s prayer.

    Our Father
    Who art in heaven
    Hallowed be Thy Name
    Thy kingdom Come
    Thy Will be Done
    On earth as it is in heaven
    Give us this day
    Our daily bread
    And forgive us our trespasses
    As we forgive those who trespass against us.
    And lead us not into temptation
    But deliver us from evil
    For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory
    For ever and ever, Amen.

    HYMN: O Thou Who Camest From Above Tr 10
    CD title: The Hymn Makers – Charles Wesley (1707 – 1788)
    Vol. 2: Ye Servants of God
    Artist: St Michael’s Singers, conducted by Paul Leddington Wright
    Record Label: Kingsway Music KMCD 891

    MARTYN: The peace of God which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God and of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, and the blessing of God almighty the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit be with you and those you love this day and always. Amen.


BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Added. Check out your playlist Dismiss