Ember Cards — what they are and how to send them. 

Ember Card - Andrew Avramenko

My Ember Card

One tradition connected with ordination that was new to me, when I started discerning my call, is the Ember Card.  These are visual reminders for people to pray for a person about to be ordained — they are the equivalent of a ‘save the date’ invitation, though the invitation is not to a party but to be praying up to and during the date of ordination.  

In essence, Ember Cards have a few basic features but can be personalised to reflect the person soon to be ordained.

Usually the cards are double sided, with the details of the person about to be ordained a deacon or a priest, the location where a named bishop will ordain them, and the place in which they will or are serving their curacy.  To this some add requests for prayers and thanks to be given for particular people, such as their family, who have accompanied them on their journey to this point.  Ember Cards for Ordinands due to be ordained Deacons may include requests for prayers of thanks for their sending and training churches.  These latter two, prayers for accompanists and pre-ordination church memberships, are not ‘the essential’ elements — the focus tends to me more on the future than the past.

On the other side of the Ember Card there is usually a picture or design of relevance to the person, often with a Bible verse or two which is special to them or their sense of calling.  Bible verses often also get included on the text-heavy side too.

An important thing to consider is the readability of your text.  You might design something that looks good but is difficult for some people to read.  Please use fonts and designs that are clear and easy to read – it is an important act of inclusivity.

I recommend using a search engine (such as Ecosia, Duck Duck Go, Google, Bing, etc) to look for how other people have designed their Ember Cards – they can be very helpful in working out how you would like yours.

There is no set time when Ember Cards should be sent out, but in practice they tend not to be sent out until about three months before a person is due to be ordained. The two main times when people are ordained is Petertide (end of June and beginning of July) and Michaelmas (end of September and beginning of October).  Those to be ordained in Petertide tend to be ordained between finishing their training and starting their curacy, whilst those to be ordained in Michaelmas tend to have started their curacy before they are ordained.  

Choosing when to send them out is not as simple as counting back from the date for the ordination, other factors may come into play.  Depending on a person’s confidence and other factors, some may not feel able to send out Ember Cards until they know that their theological college are recommending the bishops ordain them — that was the case for me! 

I do not like to assume something will happen or take things for granted (which is not to say that always achieve that).  Like with most things, there are points which increase the certainty of ordination becoming a reality but until the Bishop ordains someone there are opportunities for it not to happen — these are the details that can worry can feed upon.  In reality these dilemmas are mostly psychological, college tutors would have alerted any Ordinands at risk of not being recommended for ordination a long time before the end of their training.

Those sending out Ember Cards need to balance their struggles with uncertainty with the need to alert people to a date they might like to mark in their diaries and, of course, the request for prayers.

One final thing to consider about Ember Cards is whether you need have them printed at all.  Whilst some appreciate the tactile nature of a physical Ember Card it is worth considering sending Ember Cards digitally — the latter is cheaper and has significantly less environmental impact.  Digital cards can also be read out loud by computer software so that those who cannot read text can still be included in the act of praying.  Physical cards can be displayed around the house or used as a bookmark, thereby reminding people afresh as they come across the card.

Even if you plan to have cards printed, you may wish to design the cards yourself on your computer.  If this is the case you will end up with a file that can be used to send cards digitally and physically — PDFs (Portable Document Format) files are ideal for this as they can’t be edited and work with all types of computers.  

If sending digital cards consider how you will send them.  The size of the file for the card may well be large, especially if you have included images.  This may cause problems with sending and receiving by email, but there are free alternative ways of sending them:

  • WeTransfer.com — this looks and acts like a web-based email.  You can attach multiple files up to a 2 GB limit for free, and without having to sign up for membership, which are then uploaded to a server for 7 days.  Those you send the ‘email’ to receive a link which enables them to download the files straight to their computer.  After the 7 days are up the files are deleted from the server so you may need to repeat this process several times.
  • Dropbox.com — this is a file storage website that you need to sign-up to.  As well as storing files you can send files using its ‘transfer’ option which acts in the same way as WeTransfer.com, this includes the temporary availability of the link.  You can also share a link directly to the file but you will need to make sure that any link is only to the file and does not give people access to any other files and folders you might store in  Dropbox.
  • GoogleDrive and iCloud — these are Google’s and Apple’s equivalent to Dropbox.  You can share files with other people, but again you must take care not to accidentally give access to other files and folders.

If printing cards you can ask a professional printing company to do them for you.  The advantage of a professional printer will be the quality of the cards you have to send out, the disadvantage will be the cost — the cost is higher in part because there may be a set minimal number of cards you will need to order.  You will find lots of options for professionally printed cards online, but it is worth looking to see if there are any local printers you can use — this can be a more personal experience and a way of supporting a local business.  Alternatively, you could purchase some A6 or A5 cards and envelopes, and print them at home.

Like many, I was due to be ordained at the end of June in 2020 but 2020 is not a normal year.  The Coronavirus pandemic has had a massive and devastating impact on the world, with far too many lives lost.  One of the consequences of the pandemic is that we cannot gather together in unrelated and large groups, which means that ordinations planned for Petertide in 2020 cannot happen.  Dioceses in the Church of England are each working out when and, equally importantly, how ordinations can happen – the current likelihood is that they will happen in Michaelmas 2020.  Of course the ‘when’ is not certain, and that may change.  As for the ‘how’, only time will tell.


I will leave this guide to Ember Cards with a description of mine and a request for your prayers.

I have chosen to make my Ember Cards available in digital and physical formats.  I have designed them myself and am printing them onto A6 cards for those that would like a card posted to them.  For those wanting a digital card I have made both an A5 and an A6 version available so that, should they choose to print them, they can choose the easiest size for to print and read.  I’m also making them available digitally as a matter of principle – if we are to be truly inclusive we need to make things available to people in formats that they can access and, as mentioned above, a digital card can be read out loud by computers to those who cannot read the text themselves.

The card features a photo I took in 2019 of a refuge from the sea on the Pilgrim Path from the mainland to Lindisfarne / Holy Island in the North East of England.  Not included on the card, in part due to space and the future focus, is mention of my Sending and Training Churches.  Please give thanks and pray for the people of my Sending Church of Holy Trinity Combe Down and for my Training Church of St Barnabas Southdown, both in Bath — so many people within those churches have supported me on my journey to ordination, and I am tremendously grateful for them.  Particular mention of thanks are due for Revd Paul Kenchington, my mentor at Holy Trinity (he has since retired) and my Training Supervisor at St Barnabas, Revd Dr Catherine Sourbut Groves.

My Ember Card

My Ember Card

My Ordination Stoles

My Stoles

The stoles I designed for my ordination that were finessed with, and painted, by Yvonne Bell

My Ordination Training is coming to its end.  I was due to be ordained in Wells Cathedral at the end of June 2020, but due to the Coronavirus pandemic the ordination has been postponed.  It is currently scheduled for 27th September 2020.

One thing that goes with being ordained is wearing stoles – these are akin to scarfs that people wear during services as an indication that they are ordained.  It is customary to have different stoles for the different colours and times of the Church calendar: Ordinary Time stoles are green; Advent and Lent stoles are purple; Pentecost and Saints’ Day stoles are red; and stoles for Christmas, Easter, major feast days, weddings and funerals are white or gold. Continue reading

The art of seeing salvation

Each summer those beginning or continuing their ordination training at Sarum College gather for a week of fellowship, exploration and reflection.  This year’s ‘Summer School’ focused on the use of art to help us ‘see salvation’: in the stones that have been calved and placed to gather amongst; in the sculptures formed by hands and machines to walk around; and in the paint applied to paper, canvas and plaster to gaze upon.  Although much of the art looked at during the week was formed with a clear religious intentionality behind it, an expression of faith and worship by an artist, not all of it did.  Indeed it was one of these latter pieces that provoked the greatest reaction and insight into ‘seeing salvation’.  The piece was Zak Ové’s “Black and Blue: The Invisible Man and the Masque of Blackness”, seen during a visit to the New Art Centre at Roche Court, near Salisbury.  Continue reading

This time now

Nervous excitement woke me up early.  I put on my glad-rags and left for the cathedral before my neighbours had begun to emerge into the daylight.  I didn’t want to be late.

I descended the Mendip Hills into Wells over an hour before the service began.  The Cathedral greeted me as I emerged from my car, and the Bishop of Taunton waved as she walked past.  As long as I kept both in sight I was going to make it in time. Continue reading

Testing the limits

2384200Geraint Thomas riding to victory in the 2018 Tour de France (Source: Eurosport)

Over the course of 3 long-read blog posts I am reviewing my first year as an Ordinand, each post focused on 1 of the 3 words that sum up my first year: tea, testing and transformation.  This, the second post in the series, is all about testing, and no, they haven’t brought in doping tests for prospective priests in the Church of England.  

One section of life where tests for performance enhancing drugs is common place is sport, and in particular cycling.  Each July athletes race in the most famous cycling race in the world, the Tour de France.  For 3 weeks cyclists mix sprinting for glory with climbs up some of the highest and toughest mountains that Europe have to offer.  It is a tremendous feat of endurance just for a person to make it to the end on the Champs Élysées in Paris.  This first year of training has similarly felt like a feat of endurance.

Continue reading

Mr Tea

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More tea, Ordinand?

Tea.  Testing.  Transformational.  Three words which capture the essence of my first year of Ordination Training.  This post, the first of 3 blog posts reviewing the year, is all about the power of a cup of tea.  Well, partly.  It’s also about self-awareness and mental health.

A travelling tea set I found in the French town of Périgueux seemed just the thing for a trainee vicar who would often be away from home at a theological college.  Contained within hinged cylindrical metal case, held closed by 2 leather straps, were a trinity of tea caddies and an infuser.  It played up to the stereotype of “More Tea Vicar”, but did so on my terms: the blends of tea inside were drinkable.  Just as I don’t like instant coffee but love coffee brewed from the bean, I love lots of varieties of tea but can’t stand the crowds’ favourite of English Breakfast Tea or ‘Builder’s Tea’.  This, I know, is potentially problematic for someone who may be doing pastoral visits in England, but there is always the simplicity of a glass of water!

What was brought as a piece of amusement proved to teach me an important lessons that carried me through the year: the need for solitude and reflection, and to care for my mental health.   Continue reading

An Experiment with Daily Prayer: Part One

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Starting my Ordination Training has once again made me examine my pattern of prayer.  Over the years I have used lots of different patterns and sources in my attempt to take my focus off myself and onto God and others.  I have had times when it has worked, when I have tapped into a rich seem of inspirational liturgy but such times have ebbed and flowed with an unhelpful inconsistency.  This inconsistency has meant that the focusing and calming effect of prayer became vulnerable to be lost, drowned out or shut out by the distractions and pace of everyday life. Continue reading

Top 10 Tips for Starting Ordination Training

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Sarum College in Salisbury

For some, September and October marks the beginning of their ordination training. My training at Sarum College in Salisbury began a little earlier with a week-long Summer School in August. It was a welcomed opportunity to build a sense of community with the tutors and other students, and gave me a chance to pick up some tips for theological study that may be helpful; so here are my Top 10 Tips for Starting ordination training. Continue reading

Tears for Fears

The Font in Salisbury Cathedral

The Font in Salisbury Cathedral

I am now, officially and undeniably (even to myself) an Ordinand.  This week I have begin my training at Sarum College in Salisbury, a place which echoes from my past and which will be embedded in my future, for the next 3 years at least.  Although it is largely a non-residential course it has started with a weeklong Summer School: a chance to build community and get used to the fact that I really am an Ordinand.

Part of the week’s programme has included a mini-silent retreat: from Midday Prayer to Evening Prayer we have been silent.  Having been on a silent retreat before my BAP I was looking forward to this part of the week with eager anticipation.  And as I did during my pre-BAP retreat I gave control of my fingers to God and let Him reveal to me what might be on His heart and to help me articulate what was on mine.

What you will read is the result of the writing.  Normally I type away on an computer with a large screen but this time I used a phone, with interesting results: I could only see a limited amount of what I had typed and only saw the full picture when I read it on my iPad later.  It isn’t polished but it is, with a few spelling corrections, what was the silence revealed to me as I sat in Salisbury Cathedral on the afternoon of 23rd August 2017. Continue reading