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.

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Preparing underneath the scissor arch of Wells Cathedral

As it was, I crossed the threshold into an almost empty cathedral.  The scissor arches welcomed me along with the stewards who handed me the Order of Service: “The Ordination of Deacons on the Second Sunday after Trinity, Sunday, 29th June 2019”.  The big day, the moment I had been looking forward to had arrived: my friends were getting ordained!

This was not my day, this was Jane’s day, and Margaret’s, and Martin’s, and Simon’s.  We had started at Sarum College together on 21st August 2017, and whilst my time there continues for another year, theirs had come to an end.

One by one more guests began to arrive.  The excitement built up with each one.  Complete strangers exchanged smiles.  Families and friends gathered together, giggling nervously.  People perused their Orders of Service, sounding their delight at spotting the name of the ordinand they had come to support.  The anticipation buzzed around the cathedral – it felt like a wedding, and we were waiting for the brides.

OHfdWUN+T3SfpAgctvDXyQPeople were called to their seats.  Conversations stopped.  The organ struck up.  The choir processed.  Then came the the College Tutors, the Clergy, the Readers and the Bishops.  It was happening!

The Bishops opened the West Doors to welcome in the 13 Ordinands we had come to celebrate, their walk from the Bishop’s Palace complete.  Down the aisle they came with their sponsors and future bosses, the former to hand them over, the latter to receive them into their curacy.   

Two years previously I had attended a similar service and was told “this will be you in three years time!”.  Back then it was a distant concept, too close to the end of seeking the chance to train for ordination and too far from being ordained to fully consume me.  Today it was closer.  Today it was ‘this time next year’.  Today it was supposed to be occupying my mind, but it wasn’t.  There was joy and excitement but it was for my friends, not my future.  Occasionally though, that future began to break through.

As the service progressed my mind occasionally wandered away from the glorious spectacle in front of me.  The words spoken to the Ordinands became words that would be spoken to me.  The robes they were wearing became robes that I would wear.  The seats in which they and their families sat became seats in which I and mine would sit.  But those wandering thoughts were few, and they didn’t last for long.  Each distracting thought faded quickly, the joy in witnessing my friends being ordained being no match for them.  Even when we exchanged signs of peace there were no winks, no “this time next year”, just joy, sheer and unadulterated joy for those we had all come to support in marking this day of transformation.

It was only when we had returned home that thoughts of the days to come overtook thoughts of the day just beenI knew that any day now my diocese would send me details of the church they had discerned might be a good match for my curacy.  And so in the heat of the afternoon sun, my wife and I sat with our feet cooling in a paddling pool and speculated on the possible places we might be moving to – we soon realised the futility of that!  Instead we turned to ‘this time next year’.  We made mental notes of how we would help our children to enjoy and appreciate it*.  We talked about how my scheme to remain cool under so many layers of clothes wouldn’t work, and thought of ones that would.  And I remembered the assignment I had to complete before I could close off another year of training.  But even as I went to work on that assignment I knew that I would get nothing done.

I switched on my computer and the photos I had taken that day appeared on screen.  The assignment could wait.  Today was about those who had been ordained, people I knew and people I didn’t.  It was a joy to be savoured, a blessing to give thanks for, a new bunch of Reverends to pray for, and so I did.

God bless you Reverend Joanna Barr, Reverend Martin Collett, Reverend Anna Creedon, Reverend Laura Downs, Reverend Katy Gough, Reverend Tracey Hallett, Reverend Margaret Hayward, Reverend Lucy Jordan, Reverend Jane Sutton, Reverend Simon Taylor, Reverend Patrick Webb, Reverend Nigel Williams, Reverend Francesca Youings, and all the ‘new Revs’ across the Church of England.

*Ordination Explored by Rev Ally Barrett and Rev Elizabeth Lowson is an excellent booklet to help children understand and enjoy an Ordination service.

Unpastoralised

Like a phoenix from the ashes, I will rise.

Loathing, disdain and vitriol threaded their way through the report, it was not pleasant reading.

I had been handed the report by the BAP Advisers by my DDO and read it in silence.  Its tone took me aback.  Never before had I read such a bitter report.  It was anything but constructive, instead it seemed intent on destroying me, my spirit and my hopes. Continue reading

The Land of Confusion

Stuck in a cul-de-sac with no reverse gear

Stuck in a cul-de-sac with no reverse gear

I could tell by her tone of voice that it wasn’t good news.

The call from my DDO came earlier than expected.  The Advisers at my BAP had not recommended me for ordination training.  I felt numb.

I couldn’t find many words to keep the conversation going for long.  There didn’t seem much point either when I was told that we wouldn’t find out why for almost a week.

The future that I had been preparing for had fell apart in an instant.  I had been preparing for rejection too but experiencing it is very different.  My emotions took the expected hit.  It felt like a light had gone out, like a door slammed in my face.  I knew that I would find it tough to hear such news, that I would be in a state of grief, but I hadn’t planned for my mind to be hit hard as well. Continue reading

Hazardous interpretations

We need to be watchful for any hazards on the path ahead.

We need to be watchful for any hazards on the path ahead.

The path of exploring ordination is a strange affair. On one hand you are very much on your own, the searching is down to you. On the other hand it can be a community affair. People join the journey for a while, sometimes only for the briefest of moments, others walk with you for a long time. Yet whilst they walk with you, the decision whether to turn right or left is down to you. Continue reading

Taking Stock – Part 2: The Vocations Chaplain Experience

Patiently waiting to move on

Patiently waiting to move on

In this the second of a two part post I am looking at my experience of meeting with a Vocations Chaplain, having looked at the preceding stages in Part 1.

In the Anglican Diocese I find myself living within those exploring ordination are asked to first meet with their vicar before meeting with a Vocations Chaplain if the vicar feels there is a reason to explore.

As with the vicar and those met at later stages, the Vocations Chaplain (different titles are used for such people, even within a single diocese) is tasked with the job of discerning whether God is indeed calling a person towards ordination. This may take several meetings but if a calling is sensed the person is passed onto a Diocesan Director of Ordinands, or DDO for short. The process continues along similar lines before a person meets with a local bishop and a Bishops Advisory Panel (often simply known as a BAP). Continue reading

Who is He?

Think of God, picture Him in your mind. What do you see? What do you feel? Do you know why?

The picture of God we carry with us is likely to have been formed by our own past, our experiences and how we have come to know God. The image of God we carry with ourselves may well be quite different from other people’s. My Vocations Chaplain has asked me to think the image I carry and about who God is to me.

I grew up an agnostic. I always felt that coincidence and chance alone could not explain the existence of the world. Yet I couldn’t accept a literal interpretation of the Book of Genesis that says the world was created in 6 days, and not only because of the apparent conflict with the existence of dinosaurs. Then there was the Big Bang Theory, way before it moved from a hypothesis to a replacement for Friends – something can’t come from nothing so something must have existed before the Big Bang. Continue reading

Can I see clearly now?

Listen carefully to what I am about to tell you: The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men.” But they did not understand what this meant. It was hidden from them, so that they did not grasp it, and they were afraid to ask him about it.

Luke 9:44-46

Last week I met with a Vocations Chaplain as part of my exploration of whether God is calling me to be ordained as a priest in the Church of England.  In my previous post (“Who I am I today?“) I wrote of the challenge I felt to not pretend to be the person I thought the Vocations Chaplain would want to see, but to be true to myself.

During my meeting I came to the realisation that my life has had, in one respect at least, something in common with Jesus’s disciples.  Just as the true meaning of things Jesus said or did was kept from the disciples, it seems that I may have been prevented from seeing and understanding certain things until now.

Let me explain! Continue reading

Who am I today?

When a time comes that you, your personality and everything you say are under intense scrutiny do you show your true self or put a mask on and be someone else? If that person has the potential to alter the path you take in life do you try to be the person you think they will want to see, or do you trust that the right thing will happen when they see who you really are?

We’ve all been there, first dates, job interviews, important meetings, etc. We take extra care about the clothes we wear, we get there early, we are keen to impress. But in our nervousness to impress we can make mistakes and it can go horribly wrong. Continue reading

Planning ahead?

Do you like to know or plan what you are doing each day, week, month or even year? We can do that of course but how often have you planned something that didn’t happen? We all have ideas about what we would like to do but life has a habit of getting in the way.

The thing is plans are just that, plans. They are theoretical and aspiration. They may give us a sense of being in control and in charge. Plans can give us a sense of security but they can also bring disappointment – their resemblance to reality however can sometimes be rather tenuous! Continue reading