Reflecting on Vocation• January 12, 2005
"Every person of every degree, state, sex, or condition without exception, must have some personal and particular calling to walk in. . . .
"Men outside their proper callings are like joints out of place in the body; in finding the proper place, each must examine both his ‘affections’ and his gifts."
William Perkins (1558-1602)
More than 80 colleges and universities received grants under Lilly Endowment Inc.’s Programs for the Theological Exploration of Vocation (PTEV), creating programs to help students think about their careers in terms of their faith or ethical commitment.
But when professors began teaching courses on vocation and wanted to know what the Christian tradition has to say about it, no comprehensive text was available.
Thanks to Bill Placher and Nick Myers ’05, they’ll get one soon.
Placher is editing an anthology of readings from the history of Christianity on vocation with the assistance of Myers, who interned with him this summer.
"Nick spent the summer before last on an Indian reservation, last summer in Honduras, and spring semester in Cuba," Placher says. "So he was kind of ready to do something less exotic."
Myers has been converting chapters of books—modern to 17th century and much older—into computer files for Placher to edit, while also writing letters asking for copyright permission.
"We’re also bringing in students and giving them pages of the text for discussion, to see how it works," Placher says. "Nick has put all that together, as well."
Myers says the project is shaping his own understanding of vocation.
"My initial reaction to the book idea was, this is going to be pretty simple. As I read more, I realized it’s going to be nearly impossible. Even in the Christian tradition, there are so many perspectives on what vocation means.
"But reflecting on vocation also gets at the harder questions: What are we here for? Is there a God? Vocation is another example of our human struggle of being both infinite and finite at the same time, and that’s where these writings lead us.
"Reading all these works showed me that people have always struggled with these questions," Myers concludes.
"Modern people tend to define vocation in an individualized sort of way, not allowing the community to help us define that. We often define our vocation by asking, How much money can I make? Not, ‘What gifts do I have? What do I enjoy?’
"I’ve come to believe my vocation will be something that not only brings me joy and fulfillment, but also fulfills the community—What do they need? What are my needs? Where do the two intersect?"