Communication Breakdown

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Communication breakdown
It’s always the same
I’m having a nervous breakdown
Drive me insane!
Led Zeppelin

I started the summer waiting to move into the next stage of the discernment process: meetings with Examining Chaplains and a Bishop to decide if I should go to a ordination selection conference (the BAP). I was still waiting by the end of the summer.

I had suspected my Diocesan Director of Ordinands (DDO) had been a little optimistic in his planning for the next stage of my discernment journey but I had no reason to question his judgment on how the next stage would progress. Prior to heading off into retirement my DDO was handing those he was guiding to the remaining DDO , for her to arrange the meetings.

Whereas when I reached this stage before I had been asked to write 3 essays to give the Examining Chaplains an insight into my mind, personality and faith (see Rescued from the darkness; Defining Ordination is harder than you think!; and Challenging and Exiting Times). This time though things had changed, and sensibly so.

Now candidates were being asked to complete the mighty BAP Registration Form and collect the 4 references needed for a BAP before meeting the Examining Chaplains. This gave the Examining Chaplains the same information the Advisors on the panel receive, and the number of Examining Chaplains candidates would see had increased to 3 to match the 3 Advisors met at a BAP.

This change of approach provides the Examining Chaplains with a much more comprehensive picture of a person, making their job of discerning a person’s calling much easier. It also helped the candidates: the interviews would more closely reflect the interviews experienced at a BAP, especially as the numbers of Examining Chaplains had increased to 3 to match the 3 interviews at a BAP. And by completing the form before applying for a Candidate’s place at a BAP it gave them more time to prepare for the BAP itself. For me the task was somewhat easier than for many others: I already had a completed BAP Registration Form from my first BAP. I was surprised how little updating and redrafting was required: the core of my calling had remained consistent, though through the passage of time nuances, focus and clarity had emerged.

With all the information collected and sent in all I had to do was wait for the two DDOs to meet after their summer break and discuss the candidates, and for the remaining DDO to arrange my Examining Chaplain meetings. The date of their meeting came and went but the silence between us continued. Several weeks passed with the silence remaining unbroken, save for an email I sent seeking some reassurance that things were happening. It was the email equivalent of a polite and quite cough to remind someone of your presence in the room. But the silence continued, and it was not just for me: others I knew at the same stage had heard nothing. Frustration was bubbling up amongst the candidates.

When the dates by which I had been told to expect to see the Examining Chaplains came and went I took to the phones. It was both a relief and a frustrating telephone call.  That I had called did not irritate the DDO. She did not communicate any annoyance or sense I was hassling her or being unreasonable; in fact she seemed positively pleased to have heard from me. She had read my emails, she had seen all my references and my completed BAP Registration Form but she had done little to nothing about arranging the meetings with Examining Chaplains. Frustration was accompanied by annoyance. But my phone call had at least achieved something: it kicked started the process of making the arrangements.

Arranging the meetings with Examining Chaplains was and is like going to a dating agency. The diocese acts as the intermediary trying to match up candidates with Examining Chaplains. When the latter agrees to meet the former, the candidate is given he contact detail and left to arrange the encounter. There is, thankfully, no romance involved: if my first date with my wife had been like my meetings with Examining Chaplains then she would not have become my wife.

I was matched up with one Examining Chaplain quite quickly and a meeting was arranged soon after (I’ll be covering this in the next blog post), with the remaining two sorted and booked for the coming weeks. But just as with my first time at this point in the discernment process, a month had been added to the timescale suggested by the DDO. In the grand scheme of things a month is a minor delay and perhaps the issue was rather the generation of expectations that could not be met. It would be a harsh person to hold this against either of the DDOs but in the emotionally charged atmosphere of the discernment process such delays and unmet expectations carry a greater impact.

The blog continues with One Foot in the Graveyard

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