I have three kinds of conversations with clergy. I get an invitation to speak somewhere and afterward find myself drinking coffee or something stronger with someone who wants to talk to a stranger. Or I’ve written or said something that intrigues or irritates someone, and he or she wants to talk. Or, because I live in London, someone I once worked with passes through and suggests we catch up.

But they’re all the same conversation: “Is it well with your soul?” We don’t hum rousing melodies with a key change for the last verse. Instead we explore: “Is this turning out to be the vocation you were called to? Can you be a pastor and still be a Christian? Are you certain about the things you used to be vague about and flakier about the things you used to be sure about?”

Leaving aside those who want advice on pursuing doctoral studies in mid-career and those who assume that because I live in Trafalgar Square I pause at 4 p.m. to have tea with the queen, I find that these three questions yield three kinds of answers.