No, the title doesn’t mean I’m about to become a bishop. One step at a time, eh?
Three months ago, I said I’d keep you posted, and it turns out I haven’t been very good at that. I was sitting in a hotel bar last night, doing some study on the call of Abraham, and it crossed my mind that I hadn’t even blogged about the first meeting with the DDO, so here it is.
Meeting with the DDO, round 1.
As a family, we drove up to Derby so that I could meet with the DDO, and the rest of the family could potter around Derby. We arranged to reconvene in a cafe almost across the road from Church House. Very handy.
The meeting with the DDO (Geraldine) was really good. There were a few key aspects to the discussion. The first was largely biographical. Who am I and where have I come from? sort of thing. That was obviously a nice easy start, as I’m pretty confident with the answer to biographical questions! It’s also not your average bio, and I enjoy talking about my heritage. This was then revisited in terms of spiritual bio. So we looked at the spiritual stuff that fitted into the chronology. I also enjoy that sort of discussion
We talked about the sense of call. What kind of call had I experienced? I said that, in a way, I’d have liked the writing on the wall, because that’s pretty unequivocal. But I acknowledged that the precedent for writing on the wall was not an ideal one (for those not familiar with the Bible’s writing-on-the-wall story, the guy whose wall was written on ended up very dead very soon afterwards). This bit of the discussion was admittedly harder. Sure, I’ve sensed a call, but it’s been more of a nagging sense than a eureka moment or a flash of inspiration. And let’s face it, this is a pretty crucial part of the steps towards ordination. I talked about how the call might use some of my gifts (something that had already come up before). Geraldine asked what those gifts were. That was a short bit of conversation, obviously. (That was a joke…)
I’d already thought about gifts a bit, and I kind of concluded that my gifts were: 1) A love of people; especially young people. 2) A love of scripture (although I admitted that you wouldn’t necessarily know that by watching my life at the moment – struggles there!). 3) A love of words and communicating.
Of course, there are other things I’m pretty good at. I’m vaguely musical, pretty calm most of the time, able to lead, and plenty of other stuff. But I feel that the three things above are the most relevant to the kind of ministry I think I might be called to (though precisely what that is, or what shape it would take, I couldn’t possible say!). This may of course develop and be added to over the course of this process…
We also chatted about the process itself. There are people who’ve blogged in far more detail about this aspect of things, and there’s some useful stuff on the Church of England’s vocation website. But in summary, I’d say that there’s the discernment process (which may well take over a year). This is basically the individual and the church working together (even if it doesn’t always feel like it) to assess whether there is a call and whether ordination is the right step to take. There are the selection criteria: nine criteria that need to be met (or, as the bumpf puts it, “the areas of assessment in which Bishops’ Advisers need to be satisfied if they are to recommend a candidate for training”). These criteria are Vocation; Ministry within the Church of England; Spirituality; Personality and Character; Relationships; Leadership and Collaboration; Faith; Mission and Evangelism; Quality of Mind.
And we talked about what a priest is and does. We talked about sacraments and work and different roles and the like. We talked about the frustrations of the role, and we talked about the church. The meeting was just over an hour, I think.
The upshot of it is that Geraldine accepts that there’s a sense of call which needs to be further explored, and therefore we’ll press on with the process. We’ll meet again in September ish, but in the meantime, I’ve got some reading to do, and some praying to do too! I also need to get myself a spiritual director…
I’ve bought a bunch of books recommended by people who know the system and the process, and I’ve started a little green notebook on my own journey through the process. It’ll hopefully chart the things I’m doing and how it’s all going, which will in turn inform the blogging. And that was the notebook I was writing in in my hotel bar, with a hot chocolate on the table beside me, as I studied the call of Abraham. But that’s for another blog, at another time.