There I was: sitting down, contemplating the future. Six months in which to prepare for a Bishops’ Advisory Panel lay before me. Plenty of time to sit back, read a bit, debate a bit and contemplate all that God has to offer. No rush, no pressure.
In the midst of this peacefulness my computer and phone sang out in unison. I had mail.
It was the DDO. She had a surprise. I was being invited to attend a BAP in mid-May.
I didn’t expect that.
The tranquility shattered and, not for the first time on this journey, everything that I had envisioned doing fell apart.
Mid-May had been viewed as the likely time for any BAP since Christmas. Admittedly as delays creeped into the process that date had become to seem less and less likely. It was going to take a miracle for it to be available.
When my first invitation to a BAP came it was for mid-June. This meant that if I was recommended for training I wouldn’t have the time to sort the logistics and contracts in order to start training this year. Having prepared for starting this year the news hit me like a tonne of bricks. Whilst my mind could see the advantages of the unexpected year ahead of me my soul, heart and emotions didn’t.
As I spent some time getting adjusted to my new reality I had come to see the advantages of starting a year later (see The Recovery Room). The pressure would be taken out of sorting out accommodation and schools, and I would be able to take up a whole host of opportunities that would help in my preparations me for any future ministry. I had become excited about the extra year and begun making plans. My place at a BAP had even been transferred to the autumn.
In that one moment, late in the evening, I didn’t have six months anymore. I barely had six weeks.
The roller coaster hadn’t stopped, it had merely paused; holding me in suspension before gravity took hold once more and pulled me forwards once more.
I did have a choice though. I could say thank you but no thank you. I could continue along the more relaxed path that my place at a BAP in September had established. Or I could say yes and speed off.
It had to be a quick decision, which only made the situation worse. I was struggling to take it all in and work out all the consequences, key amongst which was the complicated issue of housing my family and schooling my son.
If I said yes my DDO would have to burn the midnight oil to get the paperwork sent to the Ministry Division. If the accommodation issue couldn’t be sorted in time I would have to defer my training for a year, if the panel recommended I did train for ordination of course. I wasn’t sure I could put my DDO through so many long days and nights if I was to end up deferring.
Replying to my DDO my concern and indecision was clear. When most people were beginning to turn in for the night my DDO kindly phoned me up. She understood that I couldn’t not guarantee I could start training this September but was still prepared to put the work in to enable the possibility. It did though hinge on two things, one in my control and one not.
There is generally a minimum deadline of six weeks before a BAP for DDO’s and candidates to get the required paperwork to the Ministry Division that facilitates the panels. The deadline for the mid-May panel I was being invited to had passed hours before the invitation had been made. Obviously they were going to have to offer at least a 24 hour extension, but the DDO needed more. If they couldn’t allow more time the decision would be taken out of my hands, I would not be going in mid-May however much the DDO and I wanted it.
The other concern was whether I would have enough time to be sufficiently prepared. Six months would have to be compressed into less than six weeks. The DDO and I agreed that the morning would provide us with the answers we needed.
Whilst the morning did not bring a resolution to the accommodation issue it did focus the responsibility for the decision solely on me: the Ministry Division had granted the DDO and me a one week extension.
I was straight into the practicalities behind the decision. I made phone calls to try and get a sense of what might be possible. There were hints that it might be possible to sort the accommodation out at the college end, but not enough to help make the decision. It was all down to whether I felt I could do myself justice at a BAP with the time available to prepare. I wasn’t sure.
What I hadn’t done was the what should have been my first thought, I hadn’t talked to God about it all. Thankfully God is forgiving, and by his grace He cut through the chaos. He reminded me that I had actually prayed for a BAP in mid-May so perhaps I should trust him and take up the invitation. I did just that.
After a phone call to my wife to check her thoughts I phoned the diocesan office. I committed myself to an intense period of preparation, and a complicated dash for accommodation if recommended.
That was just the beginning of the week! There was a lot to get done in the days that followed in order to meet the Ministry Division’s deadline. My BAP Registration Form had to be redrafted, proof read and redrafted once more. A finance declaration form, a safeguarding form, an equal opportunity form, ID photos to name but four more. On top of this there was a written reflection on an aspect of mission and evangelism to do. All of this whilst holding down a full-time job and juggling child-care.
Each spare moment was taken with something to do with the BAP. More telephone conversations with the DDO took place, on top of multiple emails we fired off to each other. We were both working flat out to make the new BAP place possible.
It was with a sense of relief that I sent off the last of the pieces of work, my written reflection. Somewhat surprisingly it had been quite easy to write, and the feedback I received from the DDO was very encouraging. I had found a place of peace once more.
It didn’t last long.
All of the initial but tentative possibilities of accommodation came to nothing, which wasn’t that surprising. Trying to secure accommodation on a possibility is a challenge at the best of times. The future was uncertain and would probably remain so until after the BAP itself.
God seems to be planning a cliffhanger ending to this story.
I will need to find a place of peace amidst all of the uncertainties if I am going to be able to prepare well. It is not something I can do in my own strength, I will need all the prayers and support I can get. Thankfully an army of prayerful people are supporting me on my journey.
I will need to place my trust in God to provide what I need and to take care of the path ahead. I will need to trust that if I am recommended that my wife’s employer will give us some grace to be able to see if we need to defer or not. I will need to trust that in the couple of weeks after the BAP accommodation could be sorted, at both ends. I will need to trust God that a suitable school can be found for my son.
I will need to trust God to help me if after all that has led up to this point I am not recommended for ordination training.
I will need to trust God.
Need to trust God.