The time has come. No it is not time to leave for my second Bishops’ Advisory Panel (BAP) but it is time to take a step back from social media and concentrate on what this whole journey has been about. It is time to focus on God and His calling for me, and it is time to do that in private. It is, perhaps, a more difficult decision to have made than it might appear.
It was in 2013 that I began to document my thoughts, experiences, struggles and challenges of discerning if God was calling me to be ordained as a priest in the Church of England. I did so to help me think things through and only decided to publish them when I discovered that although there were lots of blog posts about Going to a BAP I couldn’t find any showing the whole process. I hoped that someone might find the blog posts helpful, what I did not expect was that it would lead to an invaluable source of fellowship, encouragement and prayer. Such things are important and appreciated, and not things I wish to abandon.
In the recovery from my first experience of a BAP I came to realise how unprepared I had been, the BAP came upon me too soon to give me time for proper reflection. The impact of not having been recommended was devastating and I want to do all that I can to avoid a similar reaction, whatever the result.
The first BAP report was a terrible piece of writing, an example of the Church England at it’s pastoral worst (see my timeline for relevant posts). But it did contain some painful truths and over the past three years I have sought to take them onboard and see if they could be addressed. All of my efforts will count for nothing though if when I get to my second BAP I am unable to draw upon and articulate that which I have done and God has revealed to me. Although I feel a sense of peace and excitement as I head to a second BAP I also feel fear, dread and pessimism. I know what came before. I know that how ever I wish I unequivocally knew God’s will, and was confident I could articulate it, I cannot pretend that doubts and uncertainty do not exist.
Much as people may go on a retreat from the distractions of daily life to focus on their relationship with God, so I realise I need to retreat from social media to do that. I need to spend time in prayerful contemplation with God. I need to look at the myriad of reports written about me, my own writing and experiences, and of course the Church of England’s Criteria for Selection. If I can adequately do all that I will have done all that I can to achieve peace with handing the decision about whether I should be ordained or not to others.
It poses a dilemma though: how do I retain the important and valued support through prayer if my presence does not pop up in a person’s mailbox or timeline? It is not a egotistical thought, I do not view myself or my presence as important, rather it is a pragmatic one and one borne out of knowledge of my own failings: with so many things calling for our attention it is simply hard to remember everything; however well intentioned we may be we can all too easily forget about something unless we are somehow reminded.
God is enough. God provides what we need. He can speak and support directly or through others. If I have discerned Him correctly in calling me to retreat from social media He will provide the wisdom, peace and support I need in other and perhaps more direct ways.
I am deliberately not announcing the dates of my BAP, not least because word got out at my first BAP that The Pilgrim Explorer was in attendance! If I am to remain able to concentrate on working with the Advisors to discern God’s will and calling for me I need to retain a sense of anonymity. By not announcing the date I am also buying myself a bit of breathing space after the BAP has ended.
I cannot say how long this retreat from social media will last, irrespective whether I am recommended for ordination or not. Although I am more pragmatic and at peace about the whole process I cannot say how I will react. As much as I can see myself being disappointed if I am not recommended to train for ordination I can also see myself being relieved. Similarly if I am recommended to train for ordination I can see myself being both excited, scared and even doubtful that the Advisors made the correct decision. The decision won’t be the end, it will simply steer the direction my calling will be realised.
I am incredibly grateful for the friends I have made and the fellowship and support I have received through social media; similarly I am humbled to have been able to support and encourage others, and I hope it will continue both ways for a long time to come. Although I won’t be writing blog posts for a while, or popping up on Twitter and Facebook timelines, I may well access my accounts to check on any comments or tweets sent my way (please forgive me if I do not respond). But whether you tweet, comment or do neither I would be most grateful and be incredibly blessed if you could pray for me and others discerning their calling and attending BAPs this year.
For now though it is time to be silent. See you on the other side, wherever and whenever that may be.