Over the years various medical friends have described their job as a vocation. At the moment we have several ordinands who have been medics or will continue as both priest and doctor following their training. I was curious to hear more about their sense of vocation for either role. Abbie, who is currently training for the priesthood, has kindly provided some thought-provoking answers to my questions.
Q What prompted you to become a doctor or GP?
A I sort of fell into being a doctor really. I would like to say I wanted to help people but actually I just thought it would be fun and quite wanted to be Scully from the X-Files. I dyed my hair red and everything!
Q Did you feel that becoming a doctor, or indeed being a doctor later on in your career, was a vocation? And, if so, in what way?
A My sense of being a doctor as a vocation definitely came much later in my career. When I started to feel called to ordination I pondered the question of whether it was something I ‘do’ or something I ‘am’. I think I concluded that it was a mixture of the two. It is definitely a job and I have to be conscious that I don’t bring it all home with me, so to speak. But, there is something about our training and experiences as medics that changes us forever. It changes the way people respond to us, it changes the way we understand other people and situations, and I think as well as being a job it is also part of the person God calls me to be.
Q Did you/Do you feel that ‘the call’ to become a priest was very different from becoming a doctor?
A Having gone into medicine mostly for ‘Scully-from-X-files’ reasons I didn’t particularly experience a sense of call that I was aware of. I wasn’t a Christian at the time so probably wouldn’t have recognised that as a motivation anyway, even if it might have been there underneath. It may well have been there somehow, as I do find it hard to explain what I was thinking, or how I ended up here!
My sense of call to ordination was very different. I was preoccupied and thought about it constantly and it got to the point where I didn’t eat or sleep and I would wake up in the night thinking about it. In the end I decided to ‘confess’ what I thought might sound ridiculous to my priest — that I felt called to ordination. I was relieved when he replied that he had known about it for ages and it was obvious what was bothering me and he had been waiting for me to say something.
Q If you are planning to continue with both roles is that because you feel called to do, or be, both of these things?
A I think I am still wrestling with what my future holds. In some ways I feel that serving others as a GP is a worthy and much needed vocation. The NHS needs love and commitment, and General Practice is in a recruitment crisis. But, as I go through my training I feel more and more called to serve God as a priest and I wonder if a time will come when I leave GP to be full time in ministry.