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Plough Quarterly No. 22: Vocation

Autumn 2019

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the front cover of Plough Quarterly Autumn 2019 Issue 22: Vocation

About this issue

Everyone hungers for work that has meaning and purpose. But what gives work meaning? Vocation, or “calling,” is the answer Protestant Christianity offers: each person is called by God to serve the common good in a particular line of work. Your vocation, evidently, might be almost anything: as a nurse, a wilderness guide, a calligrapher, a missionary, an activist, a venture capitalist, a politician, an executioner… Yet, as Will Willimon writes in this issue, the New Testament knows only one form of vocation: discipleship. And discipleship is far more likely to mean leaving father and mother, houses and land, than it is to mean embracing one’s identity as a fisherman or tax collector.

This issue of Plough focuses on people who lived their lives with that sense of vocation. Such a life demands self-sacrifice and a willingness to recognize one’s own supposed strengths as weaknesses, as it did for the Canadian philosopher Jean Vanier. It involves a lifelong commitment to a flesh-and-blood church, as Coptic Archbishop Angaelos describes. It may even require a readiness to give up one’s life, as it did for Annalena Tonelli, an Italian humanitarian who pioneered the treatment of tuberculosis in the Horn of Africa. But as these stories also testify, it brings a gladness deeper than any self-chosen path.