This week it came to me that my exploration of ordination has moved onto another stage.
Things are coming into focus, and not just for me.
The signs had been there when I met with the DDO a few weeks ago, but it was only during this past week that I picked up on the signals.
The DDO had talked about making sure I understood the Anglo-Catholic side of it that I have less experience and knowledge of. It was particularly important should there be a person on the Bishop’s Advisory Panel (BAP) who was from that branch of Anglicanism.
The broad nature of Anglicanism is something that excites me. The diversity of character is like a family, all are different but share a common bond and a common love. That is the hope at least. But like many families there can be trouble and stiff within it, something I have become more aware and concerned about as time has passed.
She also spoke of forms that I will need to start filling in, forms for my local diocese and then forms for later stages. This passed me by at the time, all I heard back then was the word forms. I don’t like forms.
This week I realised that in talking about preparing for a BAP the DDO has gone from simply discerning whether God is calling me into ordained ministry to believing that there are signs that God is indeed calling me. It seemed strange that such a realisation hadn’t come to me at the time of our meeting.
My Spiritual Director has spotted a change in me too.
We met last week and she couldn’t contain her delight in what she was seeing and hearing. In the short time we have been meeting she had seen a significant transformation within me. She asked whether I realised that I had gone from speaking about ordination as an ‘if’ to a ‘when’.
She had noticed that my confidence in being who I am in this process, and in ministry, has grown too. I have a dislike of labels and generalisations. Though I fear being labeled by people in this process as a certain type of Christian I refuse to conform to one particular stereotype. I am who I am, and who God made me to be. Compromising my identity in order to get through it all is something I will not do for if I did I would not be the person God wants to be ordained (this is not totally new to my journey, I though about it near the start in Who am I today?).
Of course I still have my struggles and my doubts, they always accompany us however hard we try to rid ourselves of them. God makes good use of those though; He uses them to keep us awake and tuned into His will and plan. He has used my study of baptism to highlight it to me (it started in A Baptism in Social Media).
I finally get infant baptism, at least I think so! Its continuation of being brought into the family of God that was done by circumcision in Old Testament times is evident to me. Both are outward signs that do not automatically lead to someone having an active faith and living as God intended. The Old Testament is littered with individuals who, though circumstances, turned away from God or even failed to turn towards Him in the first place.
Yet females were not circumcised in the Old Testament, yet they were considered part of covenant through. My understanding of the arguments linking this to infant baptism is that the faith of the parents is akin to the mark of the covenant on the fathers that was applied to the whole family in Old Testament times.
Baptism of a baby is not enough, another step is needed. Thankfully this has long been recognised and confirmation is offered as that step. As someone baptised as an infant and confirmed as an adult I can testify to how powerful it can be, the inpouring of the Holy Spirit within me as the Bishop laid hands on me was phenomenal.
As I have understood the arguments in favour of infant baptism I have found myself feeling uncomfortable about having my children dedicated instead. Did I do the right thing? I put those struggles to my Spiritual Director and she helped me to realise that I did make the right choice in dedicating my children. The decisions my wife and I made were based on our knowledge and awareness then, not now or in the future. Would I do the same thing if I was called to make the choice today? That I am not sure, but my gut feeling is that I would. For one thing, the promises my wife and I made, as well as the God-parents, were as they would have been within a baptism service.
But what about being part of God’s covenant, of God’s family? From what I have felt God say to me through prayer, scripture and though other books and people, I know that my children are God’s creation. He already considers them to be His children so He will not exclude them from His Kingdom. The choice whether they accept or reject the place reserved for them is down to them, and would be whether they had been baptised as babies.
God is continuing to establish foundations for later in my ministry. When times in ministry are tough I will fall back on what is within my core, and I need to make sure that what is within me is of God and not the world. That which I can establish now, with all the pressures of combining the exploration of ordination with a full time job, a family and other commitments, would stand me in good stead for the future.
The Daily Office is playing its part in this, as hoped by the DDO in suggesting it. Most days since starting to use it I have been able to start and end the day with it, but not in between. Whilst I have found it enormously helpful in focusing my daily life on God, I had been feeling somewhat of a failure in trying to use and apply it to my life.
As a member of the Northumbria Community my Spiritual Director was perfectly placed to help me with my struggles with the Daily Office. It was a relief to find out that few people manage all four parts of the Daily Office and that most do as I have been doing. Likewise, it is perfectly normal for liturgy to feel dry at times. The key thing is setting aside time for God and bringing him into the rhythm of our lives.
The beginning and end of each day is the times we have most control over. Irrespective whether you are ordained or not, you can not control what happens in the day. We might have plans and schedules but there is no guarantee that something wont happen that will prevent each day from turning out as we envisage.
Bringing God in at the beginning sets us on the right path from the start, though it is no guarantee of remaining true to God throughout the day as I have, unfortunately, found out. However, having started the day with God centre stage I have found myself realigning my path much quicker than when I have not.
Ending the day with God has been beneficial too. Not only does it seal the day by handing over to God our experiences since waking, it also prepares us for the day ahead. I have found sleep less peaceful and refreshing when I have failed to read through a compline – Ignatius and Gerard Hughes have been proven right once again (see The God of Surprises is calling).
Finally I have noticed that how I am engaging with the world, with other Christians, and with the issues that both raise, is changing. The purpose, vision, style and emphasis of my future ministry is beginning to emerge. How that will manifest itself in the further is uncertain, but I know it will not remain so.