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Discernment of Gifts

During the rite of Holy Baptism, after the action of baptizing with water, the celebrant prays for specific gifts from the Holy Spirit for the newly baptized, including an inquiring and discerning heart, the courage to will and to persevere, a spirit to know and love God, and the gift of joy and wonder in all God’s works (BCP, p. 308). These gifts, which are also known as the “sevenfold gifts” of the Holy Spirit, are: 1) wisdom, 2) understanding, 3) counsel, 4) fortitude, 5) knowledge, 6) piety, and 7) fear of the Lord.

In addition to the gifts bestowed at Baptism, Paul wrote about additional spiritual gifts that are bestowed by the Holy Spirit for the common good. See 1 Cor 12:1-14:40, Rom 12:8, Eph 4:11-12, Rom 1:11, and 1 Cor 2:14. The lists of gifts contained in these passages are neither exhaustive nor entirely consistent. Gifts common to members of the modern church are: administration, apostleship, craftsmanship, creative communication, discernment, encouragement/exhortation, evangelism, faith, giving, hospitality, intercession, knowledge, leadership, mercy, prophecy, shepherd, teaching/preaching, and wisdom.

Every person who is part of the Body of Christ is given gifts beyond those received in Baptism to use on behalf of the whole body. Consistent with this understanding, the Canons (laws) of the Episcopal Church provide that “all Baptized persons are called to minister in Christ’s name, to identify their gifts with the help of the Church and to serve Christ’s mission at all times and in all places.” Canon 1, Sec. 1.a., emphasis added.

Discovering one’s spiritual gifts and discerning how best to share them is a process that can engage our best efforts. Whether the ministry one is sensing a call to is ultimately lay or ordained, the discernment of gifts can be a helpful starting point. Just because you enjoy something does not mean you have a gift for it. Just ask the person who enjoys singing despite the cringing looks of those around them when they sing. There is often a relationship between a spiritual gift and call; and call is always about service.  Continue on in this section on Lay Leadership (Next Page – lower right) for resources on the discernment of call.