The clock is ticking but the time is being used unexpectedly, to an extent.
Last week was supposed to be much like the previous week, but quieter. The only thing I had in my diary was another meeting to help me articulate my understanding of the things I might be asked about at my forthcoming Bishops’ Advisory Panel.
It proved to be anything but quiet.
We had planned to put our house on the market this year irrespective of whether we were still looking into ordination or not. Our family and lifestyle has changed a lot since buying our current, and first, home.
When we moved in to the house in 2006 my wife and I were a newly married couple, with no particular demands on our life. The large amount of garden that came with the house was perfect for our desire to grow lots of fruit and vegetables. The extra bedroom was perfect for visitors.
8 years later and our life is very different. The spare bedroom is no longer spare, and the children that occupy it means that we don’t have time to tend to the garden. We need more of one but less of the other. All in all, it is a good year for the family to move.
It just so happens that now we have reached this point the expected changes to our lives have been joined with some unexpected changes. With the possibility of being recommended for ordination training, we are juggling with planning for a move around the corner with a move across the country. We are moving but we don’t know where!
We had begun contacting estate agents a few weeks ago. Time was tight if we need to move to train, and also more complicated.
Traditionally most ordained roles come with a house to live in. It is an act of grace and practicality that enables curates and vicars to live in the community they serve. But even vicars have to retire sometime and when they do they need somewhere to live. For those who have been unable to secure somewhere to live that presents a serious problem.
The stipend clergy receive takes into account the house provided, and the resultant income is unlikely to be able to pay for a second property. Those clergy that have been able to get on the property ladder therefore need to maintain their investment in other ways, one being renting it out. That’s our plan.
When you’re paying the mortgage on the house you live in you can live with things not being quite right. Carpets can become threadbare. Replacing doors, windows or boilers can often be put off. That shouldn’t apply to tenants of a house.
When a house is rented landlords should, but don’t always, provide their tenants with a good standard of accommodation. That means putting things right that go wrong. And whilst we adore our home it needs somethings put right. That requires money we simply don’t have. Should I find myself recommended for training we plan to buy somewhere we can afford to maintain properly.
With the decision that will tell us where we are moving to not due until the end of May we would only have a few months to sort everything out: to sell one house, buy and rent out another, and to secure a house to rent for ourselves to live in. As we have contemplated the complexities of it all we have found it hard to imagine such a set of events being possible. Yet again it is a case of trusting God to take care if things for us which he undoubtedly will do if He wants me to start training for ordination this year.
So on Wednesday our house was put on the market. We didn’t expect much; when we had tried to move a few years ago we had one offer in 10 months.
5 minutes after the estate agent opened we had our first viewing booked. Within an hour we had 2 viewings booked. 3 the next day, 2 the day after, and 7 the day after that. As the estate agent closed for the bank holiday weekend we had 2 offers, with potentially more to come after the agent’s doors opened once again.
It felt like another confirmation that I am on the right path, that I am discerning God’s calling on my life correctly.
Whilst the sale has not been completed the signs are clearly very good. Ironically it adds further complications as we now have to look for accommodation that can meet our needs whether recommended for training or not!
Amidst all the work to keep the house tidy and the excitement of viewings, family life and my other preparations for the BAP continued. Books were read, conversations were had, meetings were arranged. But most important of all everything, the house, the BAP, all stopped to celebrate my daughter’s third birthday. Nothing is more important to me than my family, of which God and my daughter are 2 critical members. Everything else is a bonus.
As the countdown continues my diary becomes ever fuller. This week I’m seeing my Spiritual Director, my DDO, my theologically-minded friends, leading my home group and meeting a curate to hear about his experiences of a BAP.
I also have one very important and valuable piece of work to do. I have short biographies of the advisers who will form the panel to study and pray over.
Like many BAPs do, my panel will have 16 candidates split into 2 groups. Each group is assessed by a different set of 3 advisers, with both overseen by a seventh. So whilst I have 7 biographies to take in, I am likely to only be observed by 4 of them.
With a background in research I know that in the days ahead, amongst all the other things I want to do, I will be seeing what I can find out about the advisers: what type of churches have they been involved with; if there are any sermons they have given that I can listen to; writing I can read. For me it is all about building a fuller picture of who they are in advance of meeting them, but not because I want to fine tune what I might say to suit. For me it is not about getting to know them as advisers but as people, people like you and me.
And in two weeks time I’ll finally get to say hello to them.