Another (big) step on the journey…
On Friday I heard that I have been recommended for training for the Ordained Ministry in the Church of England 🙂 (pause for some of you to pick yourselves up off the floor … others of you know a lot of this story already – but bear with it!)
This has been the point of confirmation for something I have actively been pursuing for a year now and that has been floating around for 15 years or even more.
It was just over a year ago at the beginning of June 2007 that I finally faced the idea that God was calling me to this and that I had to step out and do something about it – far from being laughed out of the vicar’s study, he said he’d wondered when I was coming to see him, and the discernment process began. For me this was a hugely liberating step – in many ways I’d been battling with this feeling of Vocation to the Ordained ministry for years on & off, there was always a reason why *I* didn’t think it would work, but stepping out in faith was what I had to do, and the time felt right.
The way it works is slightly different in each Diocese, but basically you through a process at diocesan level giving you the chance along with various people, to discern whether this is the right thing to do. Here that involves several meetings with the Diocesan Director of Ordinands, ( DDO) Vocations Advisers, then 2 fairly searching interviews with Examining Chaplains, one of whom will be a lay person and the other clergy. All of these discussions & interviews are based round the Criteria for Selection , a fairly daunting document!! I also had to do the incredibly detailed forms that are required, no stone unturned! When the reports from the interviews are in then then a decision is made whether the Bishop will sponsor you for the national bit of the process, the Bishops’ Advisory Panel.
I had my Examining Chaplain interviews last November and had a date for a BAP booked provisional on those – Just after Christmas I had the reports back and the Bishop’s agreement to sponsor me as a candidate 🙂
Then I had to wait till June…, I had some written work to do prior to the BAP, and a presentation & discussion to prepare, and plenty of support from all the people involved in the process. I’d also visited STETS, the course where I hoped I would train had an interview and got a provisional place. I had an awful lot of encouragement from friends, (some of whom had known me a long time!!) many of them said “wondered when you’d get round to that…” or something similar! Part of the process is discerning whether your vocation has been echoed by those in your church and those who know you well, so this was always encouraging.
On 8th June I travelled up to Cambridge and spent a night with my bridesmaid, R and her family, I had to be in Ely for the Panel on the Monday afternoon. It was lovely to have a bit of an interlude between busy family life and the totally different stress of 2 1/2 days of “assessment” !
In actual fact the panel experience was good!- that is not to say it wasn’t draining, exhausting, mind spinning, or that it didn’t make you feel totally exposed and vulnerable at times, but it was good! The group of 16 of us got on well and were mutually supportive, the Advisers were human and humourous and the food was fantastic! Everyone is in the same boat, though no one’s experiences will be identical, we all knew what it was like!.
The link above describes what actually happens, so I won’t bore you more here, but by the Wednesday evening we were all totally shattered! 3 of us sat on the train to London struggling even to get words in the right order, but also knowing we’d got through, and felt we’d all given good account of ourselves and that the rest was in God’s hands.
The advisers stay on to write reports and discuss them and make their recommendations which go to the sponsoring Bishop of each candidate, so by the Thursday evening the die is cast – but at least another week, often more, has to pass before the reports arrive on the desks of the DDO and the Bishop…
For the first week after I got back I slept and recovered and got through normal life in a rather surreal fashion – it all seemed like something that had happened to someone else rather a long while ago. By the Wednesday a week after I got back the prospect of finding out the “result” was haunting my dreams ( when I slept!) and my waking hours, my stomach was an adrenaline receptor par excellence and I could only really talk about it to people who had been through the experience – it really is like nothing else!!
On Friday morning Mr FF was working from home, and I was one of those ” can’t settle to anything” kind of moods! I had no guarantee that I’d even get a call that morning! at about 11.15 the phone rang. Helpfully (not) MrFF said ” ooh that’s the PHONE” and we rushed to look at caller display – I recognised the number and picked it up, walking away from Mr FF and his silly faces!
After I came off the phone ( I’d been very calm, though grinning nervously!) I had absolutely no idea where to put myself, I was juggling a mobile, the house phone and a phone list, as if I’d never used any sort of phone in my life, alternating that with slightly hysterical screaming & grinning madly. It was surreal – I’d had NO idea how this would go (even if everyone else seemed to have been so sure) – though I’d felt the interviews went well, I didn’t know why – had I just been given an easy ride because I’d been written off somewhere else? or what? so it took a while even for the basic news to sink into my brain – I’m not sure the full thing has yet, but to say I’m happy is something of an understatement. Bring on the next bit of the journey, I can’t wait 🙂