Today I interviewed a Deacon candidate. It was cursory, he probably won't be assigned here, but it was a great opportunity for both of us. He needs to interview in more than one parish, and I took the chance to try a "threshold conversation" with him. Well, not exactly a by-the-book TC, but a conversation that really asked the person about their relationship with God.
He was lovely, and would be a good Deacon to work with, I'm sure. We had a really nice conversation. He started by mentioning his qualifications, his connection to our community, etc. I started then by asking him "tell me your story- what brings you here?" He talked about his formation as a Deacon, his home parish, the process he's taking on now. I asked him "Okay, but what about your faith story- what brings you here... to this point in your life and faith?" He said "ohhhhhh.... welll...." and talked about his prayer life. How he likes to pray, what devotions he likes, etc.
I said "forgive me for pressing... but... you're describing your prayer life. What about your relationship with God? How would you describe it?" His eyebrows furrowed.
He said that his relationship with God is friendly... comfortable. He prays a lot. He mentioned his ethnic background and said that people of that background are in awe of God's holiness, and feel like they walk with God, when they pray the Stations, for instance.
I asked, "can you tell me a story of a time when you felt that way, when you were walking with God?" and he told me a very nice story of when he helped a friend by leading the prayers at his family member's burial.
This was a fairly safe opportunity for me to initiate this kind of conversation- this is a man who's been through 5 years of formation, including 100 hours of hospital chaplaincy training and ministry. This should be a person who, being "churched", shouldn't be put off by questions of personal relationship with God. And... he wasn't put off... but he couldn't really share a faith story. He didn't seem to grasp what I was asking. I could have pressed him further, but I gave in and asked him the usual deacon interview questions, about the takeaways from his formation, about how he sees himself serving.
It was all very nice, but what it wasn't was... passionate.