It’s a funny kind of time, really. The Diocesan Panel was on Saturday, and in a sense, there’s nothing I can now do as I wait for the letter to arrive this week (yes, I am familiar with the concept of prayer – that’s not what I mean though!). Now is a waiting period. I can’t really remember the last one that carried such weight. I haven’t really ever had much in the way of job interviews, so I guess it’s probably akin to the wait for my A Level results way back in the 90s.
And in a way, I’m not even sure how I feel. There’s the relief of having done the Panel (and I’ll say a bit about what it entailed in a bit). There’s the tiredness from the fact that it was a bit draining. There’s also just an uncertainty. There’s a sense in which I’m not too worried about the uncertainty. Partly because this aspect of it will only last a few days, and partly because, cheesy and cliched as it sounds, I know that God’s not uncertain, and that’s reassuring.
The bishop will be writing this week (part of the reason I’m blogging this morning is so that I can convey a sense of the waiting, while I’m in the middle of it, rather than writing about it after the event – the letter could arrive with the postman today, after all!). My understanding is that this will either be a “we’re sponsoring you to go ahead to BAP” (Bishops’ Advisory Panel), or, “We won’t, at this stage, sponsor you to go ahead to BAP”. That is to say, it’s either a “Yes” or a “No”, but the “No” might be more of a “Not yet”. (See why I’m a little confused?!)
And I suppose, to be honest, there’s a part of me that, if it’s a “No”, will be mightily relieved and will think along the lines of “Well, that was a close shave!”. The priesthood is not a breeze – it reminds me of the wedding service, where the priest says,
No one should enter into it lightly or selfishly
but reverently and responsibly in the sight of almighty God
And so there would be a part of me that would happily avoid the burden of priesthood. I know lots of vicary people, and not many of them think of it ‘lightly’.
And yet, priesthood is a calling, and so a “No” would of course be disappointing, because it would call into question my sense of call – a call which others have supported and confirmed. It would challenge my vision of the future. It would be deflating – I’ve spent a fair old while on thinking and praying it through, and a “No” would be tough.
And so I wait. Holding on, whilst holding on.
The Diocesan Panel.
Here’s a little snapshot of the Diocesan Panel, for those who want to know a bit more about the process.
We arrived at Church House in Derby for drinks at 9 (in cups and saucers, not flutes…). There were 15 of us going through this process, split into groups of 5. I knew some of the 15, having been to Saturday courses with them, but the four I was with I knew little or not at all. Others there included the DDO (Diocesan Director of Ordinands, with whom this process formally began). The DDO’s PA (who did a fab job of organising the day, and the biscuits were very welcome too!). The Bishop was also there. I think this is normally the case. There were also 9 (I think!) others who were our interviewers. Most of them (possibly all?) were ordained.
We then kicked off the formal bit of the day with Morning Prayer. This was the entire group together, and was a great way to start the day.
After this, there was a complicated timetable for us all, but it boiled down to three interviews, a chat, and a presentation and discussion.
The interviews were one-to-one, with each group assigned three of the interviewers (Or perhaps it was vice versa…). The interviews covered each of the nine criteria for selection, in chunks of three. So my first interview covered Vocation, Ministry in the Church of England, and Spirituality. My second covered Faith, Mission and Evangelism, and Quality of Mind. My third was on Personality and Character, Relationships, and Leadership and Collaboration. The three interviews were very individualised, and the interviewers had clearly read through all the stuff I’d written, and the four references that had been collected. There was plenty of reference to these. I tried to strike a balance between giving a full response to the questions asked, but also allowing the interview to progress without me waffling on too much (I have no idea to what extent I succeeded!).
The ‘chat’ was with the bishop. I guess this was in a sense an interview as well, but Bishop Jan was very keen not to make it feel interviewy. And it didn’t – it was a chat about how we’d talk to someone in the pub about our faith and our calling. I think it was perhaps the gentlest part of the day (though I don’t doubt that Bishop Jan gleaned plenty from it!). I don’t think that this is necessarily normal, in that the bishop often meets with candidates at a time other than Panel, but this is how this one worked.
There were gaps in the day because of the logistics, and lunch was at the same time for everyone. The 15 of us ate together, while the Panel folk ate elsewhere.
The presentations were very interesting. In your group of five, you had five minutes to do a presentation on something (which you’d planned in advance – it wasn’t a surprise!). You then had to facilitate discussion for a further ten minutes. You were given a four minute warning in the presentation and an 8 minute warning in the discussion. This was observed by the three interviewers, as well as by the DDO. My presentation was on Spiritual Disciplines (surprise, surprise). Others covered Education in Church Schools, Inclusivity (the presentation was a fantastic poem that the candidate had written), Mission to Seafarers, and Using Secular Music in Church (which included a fun little singalong!). It was a fascinating range of topics. We all did our best to get involved in every discussion (knowing our turn to present would come, or had already been!). My understanding is that our involvement in the discussions that others were facilitating was an important aspect of what was being observed. I have no idea what you’d do if someone else was presenting on the same topic. I guess you’d hope they had a different slant!
We were free to leave in the afternoon as soon as our final interview was concluded. I did, because I then rushed over to school to see Joshua playing hockey. It was a tournament, and he was in goal for the B team (I know, I’m digressing, but this is exciting too!). They drew 2-2 with the A team, and it was one of the most exciting games I’ve seen in a while. And yes, we see a lot of hockey around here. But it was nice to get back into the ‘real world’ straight from the interview. And good to see those two parts of life juxtaposed.