It was just as well I had scheduled in some time to reflect at the end of my Grand Tour of theological colleges. 48 hours after returning home I was knocking on the door of a vicarage to start my second meeting with an Examining Chaplain.
The second meeting felt much more comfortable than the first, and therefore much more enjoyable. The bad first impression I feared I had left when I phoned the vicar to arrange the meeting was no where to be seen (see Surprised by Surprise). Instead there was a warm welcome and an interest in me as a person, as opposed to a person to be interrogated.
The first meeting had been a challenging and at times uncomfortable interview. The purpose of it was laid out clearly before the questions had begun which went straight for the jugular. It had felt like I was on the outside with the hope that my answers would see me invited in to join the club. I left with no clue as to whether my answers had been well received or what the subsequent report would say about me.
This second meeting was quite different. It was more of a conversation than an interview, and one between two like-minded people on the same side and with the same purpose. There were questions asked that had arisen out of the pieces of writing I had produced for the Examining Chaplain, but the transition between them was gentle and unforced. The conversation flowed as our mutual interest in the topics being discussed generated yet more questions.
My tour of theological colleges proved to have been well timed for this meeting. Not only did it provide evidence of my determination to discern and follow God’s will but my reflections made in the intervening period had proved helpful. I had become increasingly excited by the opportunity offered by one college to study with people from different denominations and styles of Anglicanism. Such a prospect would challenge my faith and understanding of theology. It met with approval from the Examining Chaplain.
Whilst I left the first meeting clueless as to how it went, apart from a concern about my shaky answers, I left this one with good clues to the resulting report that would be sent to the DDO. It had been a meeting of peers, one with mutual respect being evident. Words favourably acknowledging my responses had been spoken. Though I was nervous about the report of my first Examining Chaplain I felt that this one would be positive.
And then began the wait. The wait for the reports to be sent to the DDO and the wait for the DDO to contact me.
I had tried to preempt this by emailing the DDO at the end of my Grand Tour. Her usual Sunday night emails had not followed and the silence had never felt louder.
There are times when God is testing and developing my ability to wait patiently for things. I’m not sure this is one of those times.
I see a difference between patience and passivity. Sometimes we are called to wait, to give things the time they need to develop and exploring ordination is one of those things. Sometimes though we are called to act. The tension between the two isn’t new to me (see my post I’m still here! written in June 2013).
Whilst I have been encouraged to prepare to start training this year things outside of my control have begun to make such a possibility an impossibility. True, impossibilities are things that God specialises in but there are occasions when God wants us to play our part in making things happen too.
Walking with God through this world isn’t all super-spiritual. Yes we must have our mind set on eternal timescales but the practicalities of living within the world shouldn’t be ignored. My wife has a job with team of people, a cycle of funding and a notice period which are all being tested to the limit by exploring ordination. My children’s need for schooling and care whilst we work or study can not be dismissed. The need to house my family is not something that can be sorted within weeks without divine intervention.
It’s about now that someone might say that shouldn’t rush things and that I simply need to trust God. It might be true but it isn’t always helpful.
I’m not just dependent in this process but on other people as well.
Some of the predicament I find myself in is caused by a DDO that has a huge workload caused, in part, by so many people being put forward for ordination. That in itself is great news for the church, even if not for those caught up in it. The lack of availability of people to act as Examining Chaplains has also caused delays – instead of seeing them in the first half of January I saw them at the second half of February. Other delays are being caused by bureaucracy, some for good reasons, others less so.
Sitting passively when there are things to be done that can be done but aren’t being done is something I find difficult. I like to wait actively, whether that be being open to let God teach me something in the waiting or taking some of the tasks on myself that others struggle to get done. Time wasted whilst waiting for someone to act can be frustrating.
It won’t come as a surprise that this week I found myself this week feeling uncomfortably out of control. I was reaching the limit of what I could take.
With almost movie-like timing the silence and inactivity was broken by an email from the DDO. It wasn’t great news.
Her most recent registering of people for places at a Bishops’ Advisory Panel generated dates that she realised would cause further problems and delays for me and my family. There was not much she could do though as she hadn’t heard from either of the Examining Chaplains.
It was back to waiting, although this time brought a sense of despondency in which I cried out for God. I needed His help. I needed the impossible to become possible. I needed to be strengthened to cope with the wait, to not loose it and to learn something in the wait.
Perhaps realising my dependancy on Him was the lesson I was being taught because two and half hours after her first email the DDO contacted me again. She had heard from my second Examining Chaplain. It was good news!
The DDO had had a positive report from my second Examining Chaplain. It meant that even if the first produced a negative report I could arrange to see Bishop to discuss the next steps. Should the Examining Chaplains not be in agreement it would be for the Bishop to decide what to do next. If after meeting me, and having read all the reports about me, he discerned a calling towards ordination he would sponsor me to go to a BAP.
There was no time to waste. Within minutes I had arranged a meeting with the Bishop. There was still waiting to be done but it was waiting with a purpose.
There still remains the seeming impossibility of a BAP in time to start this September but if that is God’s will it will happen. Coping with finding out what will happen isn’t easy. Thankfully though God is with us in the waiting.
The week ended in excitement and a with a strange peace: excitement that I was on the move again; peace about the possible futures. Whilst I and others sensed there was something significant and important about starting training this year there came a new perspective on that not coming to fruition. That isn’t to say that it would be easy to readjust to a different timescale and the implications it would have. It was more that God would have me wait actively should I find myself recommended for training but unable to start this year.
God isn’t about to start wasting any opportunity to teach and shape me for the future.
- Taking Stock – Part 2 – The Vocations Chaplain Experience (notably for the Prayer for Patient Trust)
- I’m still here!
- Surprised by Surprise
- A Tale of Two Storms
- The Grand Tour