Preparing to worship at New Wine
The New Wine festival is taking place in Somerset this week and next. I can’t be there but reading tweets from those who are, and listening into some of the sessions being streamed live on the internet, has reminded me what a key moment my last trip to the festival turned out to be on my journey towards ordination training. Continue reading
I keep being asked “have you come off Cloud 9 yet?” and it’s made me question myself why I’ve not been on it.
It isn’t surprising that people expect someone to be ecstatic when they have been recommended to train for ordination (see Going to a BAP, again!), and it has been humbling to see the reaction to my recommendation. When we see someone work hard for something and then achieve their aim we are generally excited and pleased for them (that doesn’t mean it cannot also be painful for us, especially if we hoped for the very same thing). But being recommended for ordination is not an achievement to be gained, it is a decision to be discerned.
My retreat from social media is over. My return to a Bishop’s Advisory Panel (BAP) has been completed. The results are in and a chapter of my life that begun back in January 2013 is over. It has involved 1 Vocations Chaplain, 5 Examining Chaplains, 3 Diocesan Directors of Ordinands (DDOs), 2 Bishops’ Advisory Panels, 2 Panel Secretaries, 6 Bishops’ Advisors and 2 Bishops; with far greater numbers of people that have accompanied on my journey with encouragement, wisdom and prayers.
Strange Days (aka Going to a BAP) covered what goes on at a BAP in detail this post will aims to illustrate the value of finding peace and living in the moment with God through challenging times, because returning to a second BAP was truly a challenge. As for the result? Well, it wouldn’t be right to write the ending before the beginning! Continue reading
But what happened? As often is the case there is a before, during and after to this extended blog post of going to my second BAP. Whilst my blog post
This blog has brought amazing companions on my journey of discernment.
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.
Walking the tightrope
Over recent years we have seen an increased awareness about mental health issues but how honest can we be when talking about them? How certain can we be that as well as more people talking about mental health issues more people understand them?
In a blog committed to being open and honest about what it can be like to discern whether I should be ordained it is perhaps strange to question the degree of honesty, but every disclosure brings with it a consequence. People disclosing their struggles with mental health can get sidelined and loose jobs. I fear they might find routes towards ordination blocked too because of misunderstanding speaking louder than God’s will.
I am used to be one of the usual suspects
I know I’m guilty of something, I just don’t know what it is.
When a car horn is blown or its lights flashed in my direction I look to see what I have done wrong and, usually, find nothing. When my name is called out in the street I look round expecting to be admonished but see a child being called back into the safety of his parents instead. When my boss asks to meet with me in private I walk into the room expecting to told off but leave having been encouraged. Perhaps it is down to the suspicion that my time of reckoning for all the times I have done something wrong and got away with it has arrived. Continue reading
Moving age-groups not houses
Shortly after finally making contact with the DDO
(see Communication Breakdown
) I attended a workshop for those on the discernment path. I had been to several before, including one a year ago which covered the topic this was to cover: the dreaded and artificial BAP Pastoral Letter Exercise. Back then I had spoken to the other candidates not just about what it was like to go to a BAP
but what it was like to be rejected, or not recommended as the Church of England like us to call it. Giving the talk had left me unable to focus on the Pastoral Letter Exercise so a second opportunity to do so in the company of others, and with the insight of the DDO
and a particularly caring and constructive BAP Advisor, was to be welcomed.
The time I had spent over the past year picking the brains of those with good pastoral experience and skills, coupled with the thoughts of others present on the day, meant that I finally felt I understood what BAP Advisors expected to see in a candidates response. Even more encouragingly I felt like I might be able to write one that would at the very least be acceptable and not spat out like a rancid piece of food. That was just as well for the DDO dropped a bombshell into the conversations that shook several of us to the core. There was no sugar-coating of the pill, there was just the bare facts: the funding and training pathways for ordination had changed.
It’s always the same
I’m having a nervous breakdown
Drive me insane!
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.
It’s complicated. It’s not you, it’s me.
Discerning whether God is wanting you to be ordained is not a simple process. At times it feels like a tightrope, a roller-coaster or a double-edged sword. On one side it is very much about you as you try to work out what God is wanting you to do and whether you want to do it too. On the other side it is about who God is wanting you to work with and whether others want you to do that too.
It is about you and it isn’t.
Have patience with everything unresolved in your heart,
and try to love the questions themselves
as if they were locked rooms
or books written in a very foreign language.
Do not search for the answers, which could not be given to you now,
because you would not be able to live them.
And the point is to live everything.
Live the questions now.
Perhaps then, someday far in the future,
you will gradually,
without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.
I had found as much peace with being rejected for ordination training as was possible. Questions remained over what had happened before, during and after my rejection but the answers remained stubbornly on the horizon. They hung in front of me like an elusive carrot on a stick and for all my efforts to reach them they remained out of reach.
Was the Bishop’s Advisory Panel (BAP) and the preceding period a stand alone lesson to teach and transform me into the person God wanted me to be for the next stage of our journey together? Or was it part a series of lessons, and if it was what was the next one? Was it to attend a second BAP ? Did I even want to go to another? Was it to be ordained? Do I even want to go to a second BAP ? Linked yet separate questions with fathomable way of being answered.
Knock-backs and rejections had robbed me of confidence in myself and my abilities. My doubts and confusion clouded my judgement so it was no wonder that trying to discern what God was trying to teach me in this period did not bring the clarity I needed.
Pursuing answers had become fruitless. To find the answers I had to stop searching for them. Continue reading