Students Explored 'God's Calling'


Kathy Dickson

Kathy Dickson

Bluffton students explored ‘God’s Calling’ during Spiritual Life Week

“God’s Calling” was explored during Bluffton University’s spring 2022 Spiritual Life Week, held March 14-18, 2022. Students delved into discerning their vocations within a context of Christian vocation with Kathy Dickson ’03, Spiritual Life Week guest speaker and director of vocational discernment and community engagement at Methodist Theological School of Ohio. To guide them, students reflected on the scripture 1 Samuel 3:10b “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening,” which was chosen by a student planning committee.

Dickson’s goal for the week was to help students see the unique talents and the patterns in their lives which connect to the idea of vocation and to consider the ways that call is not usually answered in isolation.

“Vocation and call from God aren’t just whittled down to certain roles and titles or projects. We’re called to more than that, and we are called also as community,” said Dickson. “Meaning and purpose align with a lot of different sectors of society, and it’s good for them to understand, as liberal arts students, that these ideas have Biblical roots.”

During her Forum presentation, “That Phone is Always Ringing (And Other Ways to Imagine God's Call),” Dickson presented thoughts on vocation from a wide range of voices including:

Martin Luther: “Vocation is the specific call to love one’s neighbor” from “The Fabric of the World” by Lee Hardy.

Frederick Buechner, writer, theologian and Presbyterian minister: “Vocation: The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and world’s deep hunger meet.”

Howard Thurman, author, Baptist minister and civil rights leader: “Don’t ask what the world needs, ask what makes you come alive, and go do it…because what the world needs are people who have come alive.”

A 16th-century Anabaptist: “I am a follower of Jesus Christ. That is my vocation. I make my living as a cobbler.”

Like the Anabaptist cobbler, Dickson stressed that Christian vocation is much more than a job description, not just “what” you do but how you do it.  

“Our vocation is how we live out our faith in whatever place we find ourselves, in whatever occupation that may be,” said Dickson. “It doesn’t need to be something you are paid to do. Your vocation can come through in volunteer commitments, service or family roles.”

She also provided tools for students ready to engage in the discernment process, such as spiritual practices like scripture reading, reflection journaling, conversation in community, and caring for self. Dickson also shared sample questions to listen for in discernment, like:

What dreams are within you (even the quiet ones)?

What values are deal breakers for you?

What comes naturally to you? Gifts? Strengths?

When have you wanted to say “yes” to an opportunity or “no?” 

What courses leave you curious or wanting to learn more?

Her sermon during Chapel focused on call in community and the idea that we often do not discover call or live it out in isolation.

With fall 2021 course registration beginning at the end of March, the discussions were timely for students. Elizabeth Rockwell, a member of the Spiritual Life Week planning committee, said she took the messages from the week into her pre-registration advising meeting.

“I really thought some things out before that meeting,” said Rockwell. “A lot of us are in a weird in-between stage in college, and we’re trying to figure out, is this what I’m meant to do? This week helped me listen and recognize the strengths I have. I know what I want to do in the future, but Spiritual Life Week affirmed where I am going.”

Spiritual Life Week at Bluffton University is held twice a year. Students play a major role in planning activities which strengthen growth and faithfulness in their relationship with God. The week includes guest speakers and special times of worship.

Previous Spiritual Life Week themes have explored the power of storytelling and getting into good trouble.