Beginning the Discernment Process

Beginning the Discernment Process

Step One: Individual/Personal Discernment

It is important for all those discerning a call to ministry in the church to expand their perspective of the Church beyond their own parish’s walls. This phase will look different for each person but should take its shape from this guide [Individual Personal Discernment PDF]. We hope this work will bring you joy as you explore Christ’s Church and seek your place in it.

In addition to these resources, you may also find helpful a Basics of Discernment Flowchart [Flowchart pdf] as well as a list of Qualifications and Expectations [Qualifications & Expectations for Discernment PDF] for those entering discernment. In addition, we have compiled this list — Characteristics of Effective Clergy [Characteristics of Effective Clergy PDF] that we hope to identify and/or cultivate in those pursuing ordination.

Step Two (Optional): Explorer’s Day

About twice a year, the Commission on Ministry hosts a session (either in-person or on Zoom) for those who are interested in learning more about the Discernment Process in the Diocese of Alabama. During this time, you will have time to meet with members of the Commission and others who are thinking about discernment; you’ll have the opportunity to discuss and brainstorm what the church needs now, learn about formation opportunities, and hear about what life is like as a priest or deacon. Please contact The Rev. Kelley Hudlow – Canon for Vocations and Community Engagement at

Step Three: Parish Level Discernment Overview

After a time of individual/personal discernment, those who feel a call to explore more deeply ordained ministry should pursue parish level discernment.

A quick overview of this journey: In consultation with a member of the Commission on Ministry, your priest will put together a discernment group which allows you and the parish to listen and discern your call together. You’ll spend time studying together, reading and discussing a workbook on hearing a call from God, and looking at your leadership strengths and growing edges. After the discernment committee completes its work, it may make a recommendation to your parish vestry to support your further discernment at the diocesan level.

The diocese requires some extensive paperwork including an application, a letter of recommendation from your parish vestry and priest, and a background check. The list of required paperwork can be found in the steps below. Once the paperwork is complete, your sponsoring priest can make an appointment for you and she/he to meet with the bishop.

After the meeting, the applicant will receive a letter from the Bishop with notification of the bishop’s decision about admittance into the next phase of the process of discernment. The Bishop may choose to change the direction of discernment for an applicant or move an applicant further along with discernment to become a nominee. If moving forward in the process, the applicant will now be called a “Nominee” and will begin diocesan discernment.

Diocesan discernment is a chance for leaders outside of your parish to work with you to listen for and learn of your call. These supportive conversations will help you discern if you are called to the diaconate, priesthood, or if lay ministry may be a better fit. This time of larger discernment is a significant time for you to learn about yourself and the Church. Medical and Psychological exams are required in this step of the process. If together you and the Church discern that you should be made a postulant, you will begin your formation journey shortly thereafter.

A step-by-step list for Parish Level Discernment can be found here [Parish Level Discernment pdf].