The decision had been made and put into action. All that remained to cement the position and secure the place at a Bishops’ Advisory Panel in mid-May was a report on me by my sponsoring Diocese and DDO.
I am always intrigued by other people’s views about me. Even if they can be uncomfortable to hear they can be more accurate than my own. Seeing myself from other people’s perspectives helps me understand how I am understood, and how to change if I am not. This report on me by my DDO would be a key bit of information the advisors on the panel would use in getting to know me and in working out what questions they wanted to ask.
Unlike my references for the BAP, I was given a chance to read the report. Thankfully I recognised the person written about, but reading it was like an out-of-body experience.
The report was split into 3 sections, each relating to 1 of the 3 interviews I will having during the BAP. The interviews are used to assess and question each candidate against the 9Criteria for Selection.
A Vocation Adviser looks at the candidate’s understanding of ministry in the Church of England, their spiritual life and discipline, and most importantly on their sense of vocation. A Pastoral Adviser looks at the candidate’s personality and character, their relationships, and their leadership and collaboration qualities. Finally the Educational Adviser looks at the candidate’s understanding of the faith, their commitment to mission and evangelism, and their quality of mind.
I had tried to avoid reading the Criteria for Selection after being intimidated when I had first looked them up. It had felt impossible to match up to what they called for. Thankfully the discernment process is such that the assessment against those criteria is done by other people, you only need to do it for your own piece of mind and preparation.
That my local bishop and DDO had recommended me to go to a BAP was evidence that they felt I measured up to the 9 criteria to some extent. The sponsoring report was going to tell me just how much the DDO felt I did.
As I read the report I looked out for the sentences that might be picked up by the advisers. These would be the things I would need to ensure I could articulate effectively. Indeed my difficulty in doing just that with one of the Examining Chaplains had been noted in the report. Following that meeting I had read up on areas I felt weak on and worked on being able to explain myself more clearly when I met the Bishop. I needed to act likewise on my sponsoring report.
The combination of the report and my BAP Registration Form laid my character bare, which meant that I could relax in thew knowledge that they would know what lay behind the answers I gave. Not that this reduced the need to prepare or be articulate at the panel itself, relying on the advisers’ ability to read between the lines would be a dangerous tactic.
All in all the sponsoring report was encouraging and humbling to read. It allayed some of my fears about the interviews and left me feeling more confident about facing the advisers.
Factual corrections made, the DDO sent all of the paperwork off to the Church of England’s Ministry Division. We had made the extended deadline with 30 minutes to spare!
The work didn’t stop there though. Meetings were scheduled with my DDO, Spiritual Director and one of the reading partners my Vicar had arranged.
My reading and contemplation of the basic fundamentals of Christianity began with Rowan William’s book ‘Being Christian’. The book consists of 4 sermons the former Archbishop of Canterbury gave on baptism, the Bible, communion and prayer. It is such rich stream of wisdom, so much so that my notes and quotes need revising and reducing still further. Being a relatively short book it should prove to be a useful resource at the BAP for those moments when my nervous brain freezes and needs to be jump started.
All this frantic activity had left me feeling disconnected from Lent and Holy Week. It was with some relish that I took up the invitation to do the reading at a Good Friday service. The service proved to be just the medicine I needed. As the service flowed between the choirs’ harmonies and the readings the enormity of Jesus’s sacrifice hit home.
Though sat in full view of the congregation I was glad that the attention wasn’t on me. The contemplative nature of the service put the focus where it mattered, on Jesus. My sin was just as much part of the reason He had sacrificed Himself, and my continued sin showed a disrespect that cut to my core. As my tears flowed I could only hope that my repentant heart would bear fruit in a demonstrable and lasting change.
Easter Day itself proved to be no less powerful. Whilst everyone around me seemed to be celebrating Jesus’s resurrection I found myself struggling. I didn’t wholly know why but I knew that I had a choice whether to celebrate or not. I chose to celebrate.
As part of the service we had been encouraged to take part in a time of ‘cardboard testimonies’. I knew what I needed to do. Just as we were celebrating Jesus’s resurrection I knew I needed to celebrate the transforming impact He had had on my life. Jesus had defeated death and had rescued me from a darkness that was consuming me. My joy and purpose had returned.
In the four weeks of preparation I have remaining before my BAP I am more determined than ever to honour His sacrifice and gift.