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

My Ember Card (which you can download from the bottom of this page)

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.

If you would like a copy of my Ember Card you can download A6 and A5 versions below:

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

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

Silently Speaking

Sunset over the island of Coll

Listening to the silence

Growing up as the youngest of three, opportunities to talk were few and far between.  Each one had to be seized upon in case it would be a year before another would come again.  Silence was my chance to speak. 

Whatever the truth of my memory, the impact was that silence became an entity that I needed to fill; if I didn’t, and it continued, I would become increasingly uncomfortable.  And so I filled them.  I would jump into the silence with whatever opinion, facts or half-baked humour I could muster.  It wasn’t always the best idea. 

Filling the silence risks not hearing the very thing that needs to be heard.  Increasingly I’ve realised that isn’t me.  

Continue reading

Now, what was I here for?

A4745AD1-40A8-4FA0-96DB-A9AC3FD9F529

The Night Before Christmas (Clement C. Moore, illustrated by Niroot Puttapipat)

Transforming something unknown into something known lies in the future. We can use our imagination and other people’s knowledge to paint a picture of what it might look like but it is only when we catch up with it, when the future becomes the present, that we begin to know the unknown. And so it has turned out with my Ordination Training.

As the training reached full-speed in early October (my studies in September were fairly light) the impact on my daily life quickly became clear: each day would be filled from rising to sleeping. My wife and I both needed to continue with our full-time jobs, my children still needed to be taken to school and clubs, household chores still needed to be done, and occasionally we even needed to eat. The only space for study was my ‘spare-time’, something I enjoyed using to spend time simply being with my family and friends. The study mean that this time would be limited, I would not be able to socialise quite as much as I did and this blog would not be added to quite as often as before. As such this post is as much an account of what it is like to train for ordination whilst working full-time as it is a reflection upon it. Continue reading

Nothing to lose

 

IMG_1570

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

Time Turning

 

61LWBnXr6NL._SL1002_

Hermione Granger’s Time Turner (TM & © Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. Harry Potter Publishing Rights © JKR.)

My family have discovered Harry Potter this year, and not just the films. The books have grabbed my son’s interest like no other book has done before; a previously reluctant reader he now can’t stop reading and has encouraged me to read the books too. So as a family we came across the character Hermoine Granger using a Time Turner in Harry Potter and Prisoner of Azkaban in order to turn back time so that she could study more subjects. Going to services ordaining priests and deacons has been like having a time turner myself, only turning time forwards not backwards. Continue reading

Leaving the Shadows

im-not-there-photography-pol-ubeda-hervas-1-600x600

There is a time for everything, a time to be anonymous and a time to be named.

Writing anonymously or under a pseudonym is nothing new and the reasons for doing so are numerous. Anonymity is a mask that enables both good and bad. It can be hidden behind by those seeking to abuse or to avoid abuse. It can remove perceptions of a person or reinforce them. It can be liberating or confining.

Like many, when I began exploring my sense of calling I searched for other people’s experiences; I didn’t find much and as I began my journey I soon discovered why. Exposing the deepest confines of our soul to ourselves is difficult enough, exposing that to others is on another level entirely! Exposing developing yet incomplete experiences and thoughts adds to the vulnerability: views and understanding change over time so to talk about something can create unhelpful misperceptions, especially when a blog post is read in isolation. It also risks ridicule and embarrassment when naivety or errors are exposed.

When I started this blog I had one thing in mind, to be as open and honest as possible as I explored whether I should be trained for ordination. I had seen people begin exploring ordination with rose-tinted glasses and be hurt when the challenges came. Some of those I spoke to as I took my first tentative steps wanted to make sure I went into it with my eyes wide open; the discernment process, the training for ordination and the life of a priest would not be a fairy-tale bed of roses, at times the thorns would be undeniably present. Continue reading

A Tribal Sales Pitch

walks-and-walking-morwenstow-walk-in-cornwall-this-way-not-that-way

Discerning which opinion and direction is the right one to follow.

Everyone has an opinion, even if that is to sit on the fence or have ‘no opinion’, and most are quite happy to share it, but often how we share it says as much about us as it does about the thing we are talking about.

When my wife was pregnant this was all too obvious, almost everyone we met had a tale to tell and advice to share: “don’t eat peanuts”, “eat peanuts”; “don’t give the child a dummy, you’ll end up regretting it if you do”, “give the child a dummy, you’ll wish you did if you don’t”; “breast is best”, “bottle milk is fine”; “I did this, you should too”; the list goes on. They wanted to help us bring up our child as well as possible but their opinion would often conflict with another well intended piece of advice.

Opinions and advice can help people to make a decision, but they can also be a way of justifying a decision we have made. Promoting the pathway we took helps us feel good about our decision, if we admit to it’s flaws that exist we can wonder if we decided correctly. One strengthens our position, the other opens up to nuances that can be perceived as a weakness by ourselves or others. Continue reading