There was a time when exploring ordination felt like being on an express train: things happened regularly and quickly. Each week there was something new, some new issue to wrestle with, some new emotional struggle to document. More recently it has felt like being on a canal boat or the International Space Station: slowly drifting along, detached from the goings on of life. The detachment has been somewhat comforting. Like astronauts left alone on the International Space Station I have been able to observe the fragility from afar, whilst similarly connected to it by the sporadic communication from the Ground Control that is the church. But the time has come to re-enter the world of ordination and face the fire that comes with it.It was the announcement of my Diocesan Director of Ordinand’s (DDO) retirement that shook me out of orbit and into the clutches of gravity. His retirement would see me passed onto my I third DDO, a fact that made me look back on the length of my journey so far.
It all started with a simple run and a nudge from God: as I prayed for the church I ran past He said I pray about whether I should be ordained. That was in January 2013 (See I am called). By May 2014 I had been to a Bishops’ Advisory Panel, the Church of England’s version of the Big Brother House. Instead of a successful launch into ordination training I crashed and burned (see The Land of Confusion, Please Sir, can I have some more? and Unpastoralised), and the recovery took longer than the journey to the BAP itself.
I had no desire to go back. Like Major Tom, I was content to simply float and observe, to drift off wherever my momentum took me; my DDO in Ground Control was having none of that. As I prepared to cut the umbilical cord and abandon the possibility of ordination He reinforced it, insisting I stayed connected and made use of the God-given gifts I had lost sight of. It was his direct encouragement that kept me exploring until God had parted the clouds and made the path and the destination clear.
My first DDO’s role was to send me to a BAP, my second was to help me recover from it. My third DDO’s task is to arrange meetings with Examining Chaplains to help a bishop decide if I should return to a second BAP.
It is meeting a bishop that feels ominous and, as with my DDO, will most likely be my third different bishop. The first meeting had been nerve-wracking, the second had been deflating. The first had put me at ease and drew me in, the second had put the barriers up and shut me out: his reaction to finding out that I had been rejected by a BAP lives with me still – the disappearance of his smile and the urgency with which he moved onto a conversation with someone else spoke volumes. Most likely it was the awkwardness of the issue in question that caused such a reaction, rather than any malcontent on his part, but the impact continues to this day. Whilst my meeting with a bishop, should the Examining Chaplains deem one appropriate, is not likely to be with this particular bishop, having to explain and justify my continued sense of calling against a BAP report that was unequivocal about my unsuitability is a prospect I would rather not face but know that I must.
There is no point or need in worrying about such a meeting, it is a meeting for another day and indeed may not happen for some time, if at all. Although my second and third DDOs are working to a timetable that assumes the ‘best case scenario’ (if being recommended to continue to the next step is the ‘best case’) I have my meetings with the Examining Chaplains to have first.
This all brings me back to the 2 of the most important things I have learnt through this whole process: patience and trust. I have to trust others to play their part and to make the right decisions (whatever they might be), and I have to be patient whilst they do so. Despite the issues that conspire to place human timescales on God’s work I have to do my best to remain detached; not a complete detachment but the detachment of astronauts orbiting Earth. That is more easily said than done, for my mind has naturally jumped several steps ahead to things that hopefully will but may not happen. Trust and patience are, I have learnt, skills that are never possible to fully master.
For now I wait for Ground Control to issue my next set of orders: my meetings to attend, my issues to consider, and my steps to take. This time I wait for the DDO with far less pressure and with a lesser wait of expectation than before. This time I wait floating in orbit until I am finally called to re-enter.