Ordination 8 – Not Yet.

(I’ll warn you now, this is likely to be another fairly long post)

So, the letter arrived this morning.  Marked colourfully ‘Private and Confidential’.

And, as you may have gathered from the title of this post, the response to the Diocesan Panel is a ‘Not Yet’.  “[The panel] would like you eventually [to attend] a Bishops’ Advisory Panel but they feel that there is some further exploration to be done first.”

And so it seems I’ve got over the first hurdle, in that the panel are keen for me to go forward, and yet some extra hurdles have been added after the first one.  (At this stage, it’s important to point out that I am content with the contents of the Bishop’s letter.  I’ve re-read that sentence about hurdles, and it could be misinterpreted as bitter, which it absolutely isn’t.  It just means that I was thinking primarily in terms of a Yes/No, which would mean either falling at the first hurdle, or passing it and moving on to the BAP hurdle.  The ‘Not Yet’ option simply adds some hurdles in.  Hurdles which I’m more than willing to tackle.)  The fact that the panel want me to attend BAP, albeit not yet, is of course reassuring.  It means that they’ve accepted my sense of calling, and that’s really important.  And yet they don’t want me rushing headlong to the next hurdle, because they want me to be better prepared for it when I reach it.

So, what is the ‘further exploration’ they’re after?   Well, some of this is clarified in the letter.  Easiest is the fact that I need to read up on sacramental ministry.  That was something that was actually mentioned in the interview, so isn’t a big surprise.  If anyone has any recommendations on stuff to read about sacramental ministry, please say so in the comments section!

Another comment was that “some anxiety was expressed around the area of leadership and the Panel felt they needed to see more evidence of your ability to take a lead.”  This is understandable, surprising and frustrating.  More than one of my four referees felt that the references called for a lot of evidence that I had done something, rather than confidence that I could do something.  Having been engaged primarily as a stay-at-home Dad for the last eight years, the evidence is a little harder to come by.  This is coupled with our church move at the start of 2016, which means that all the leadership stuff that I did in our previous church, and the even more leadership stuff I did in the church before that, didn’t feature in the references.

Another comment was that “They would have liked to have seen a little more passion when talking about your sense of calling“.  I find this an intriguing one, and I think I’ve got an idea of part of the reason behind this.  At the moment, I’m convinced that priestly ministry is something to which I am called.  However, I’ve been thinking a fair amount about the sacrifice of ministry, and I have a wealth of knowledge about the pain that such ministry can bring for all manner of reasons.  I think it’s fair to say that I’m not exactly thrilled by the prospect of the burdens that ministry involves carrying.  Therefore I’m not currently at the point where I’m viewing ministry as a yippee-skippy way to spend the rest of my life.  The calling is a burden that I’ve reconciled myself to, but it’s fair to say that I need to spend some more time thinking on the joys of ministry, the hope-filled, light-bringing, refreshing, building-up, blessedness of ministry.  And to that end, I’ve got a favour to ask my priest friends (and anyone else who feels qualified to do so).  I’d really appreciate it if you could say something in the comments section under this post about the joy of ministry.  Something about a highlight for you in this calling.  It doesn’t have to be your all-time highlight; it might just be something from this week, or this month.  But I figure I need to balance in my mind the burden with the blessing, and your input would be really helpful.

There were other bits I need to work on.  But the letter said plenty of nice stuff too:  “…recognised your sense of calling … you had a good understanding of the breadth and traditions of the Church of England … depth and breadth of your spiritual life and the different disciplines you embrace … you seemed at ease and able and ready to engage fully with the discernment process … approachable and thoughtful … enjoyed your presentation…”  So there were plenty of positives to take away from it.  And, fundamentally, it seems to be a Not Yet, not a No.

Please pray for me and the family as we work through the next stage of this process.  And please pray for the other 14 who were on the course.  I haven’t heard anything from any of them, but I’m guessing some will need prayer for the sadness of a response they didn’t want, others will be dealing with the joy and weight of a ‘yes’, and all of us will be working through a level of uncertainty about the shape of the future.  Your prayers would be most welcome.

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8 Responses to Ordination 8 – Not Yet.

  1. nickparish says:

    Please note, the comments section is not reserved exclusively for priests! Please make any comments you like. It’s just that on this particular post, I’d be particularly keen to hear comments, however brief, from priests/ministers etc.

  2. Dorothy says:

    ” “some anxiety was expressed around the area of leadership and the Panel felt they needed to see more evidence of your ability to take a lead.” This is understandable, surprising and frustrating. More than one of my four referees felt that the references called for a lot of evidence that I had done something, rather than confidence that I could do something. Having been engaged primarily as a stay-at-home Dad for the last eight years, the evidence is a little harder to come by. This is coupled with our church move at the start of 2016, which means that all the leadership stuff that I did in our previous church, and the even more leadership stuff I did in the church before that, didn’t feature in the references. ”
    This seriously interested me – my first gut reaction was an initial heart-wrenching wry riposte of “welcome to the world of women who choose full-time parenting rather than a career path”.
    In particular welcome to the path trod by so very many in the earliest days of women’s ordained ministry, when assessment was (and i fear still is) heavily weighted towards societal norms of alpha-leadership from the top – a very male-perspective model of leadership.
    My other reaction to this point is “was there no way of submitting material from your earlier experiences of leadership in previous churches? particularly if the change of church was triggered by a relocation?”

    • nickparish says:

      Thanks for your comment, Dorothy. Yes, I did find myself feeling a sense of injustice for full-time parents. And of course this has meant pain predominantly for women who have trodden this path. And for that, I’m sorry.
      But yes, the model of leadership comment is something else that came to mind. I wasn’t exactly sure from the letter (simply because it’s open to ambiguity) whether the panel wanted to see more evidence of leadership from my references, or more evidence of leadership from my facilitation of the discussion (or both!). But given that I’ve said that my leadership style is collaboration and relational, I found myself wondering if that wasn’t the sort of leadership that was wanted… (And again, as I said in the post above, I’m not bitter about this, just thinking out loud!)
      And finally, I simply don’t know if there was a way of submitting material from previous churches. That’s something Mum suggested when we were chatting yesterday. I was told to provide four references, and yet it turns out some people had had six referees. So perhaps that would have been a possibility. And there’s one friend in particular who (as a priest now!) would be able to write a reference that made reference to plenty of leadership stuff I’d been involved in. So that’s something to bear in mind 🙂

  3. frmary66 says:

    Well! We’ve already talked, of course, but let me respond to the bit about joys of ministry. On Saturday our curate was took-ill – raging fever etc. She rang me in the afternoon, very wobbly. She was due to preach twice y’day. Yep, you got it: I preached. (Not quite bad as it sounds: – different services, same subject etc.) It happens I preached last week anyway. I’m 9 months post retirement. I can’t express the joy I find of being in the pulpit. It’s a bit weird, because I actually think that pulpit preaching is a pretty daft way of communicating with this society, but when I’m publicly grappling with the word of God, and watching faces clinging to it and following, and suddenly lighting up…. well, there’s little better than that! Then our Sunday evening “God Club” (named by a then-non-Christian punter, who came to faith and then died, all in about 6 weeks, with a lot else thrown in), when we sat and talked about suffering and all that. “Sparring” (his word) with our 90-year-old card-carrying atheist attender, and recognising the extraordinary joy and … well, the extraordinariness of our faith… Then today I’ve been in church for much of the time, laying to rest a lovely lady whose life was given to service in many countries, mostly Arab-world or connecting into Arab-world, and knowing the sheer joy of “in sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life”…
    I think these two days have carried enough joy to sink the proverbial ship, even though I’m absolutely worn out and can hardly see straight or walk straight! I know you’ve seen ALL the ups and downs of it, living at home, my son, but, oh my word, I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else under the sun. JOY? You bet.
    Love yer kid. (Sorry – others are watching!

  4. AwkwardReverence says:

    Hi Nick! Really glad that you’re able to see the “not yet” in a positive way and not in a negative one! I have just been to BAP and it was a recommendation, but I ended up deferring the BAP that I was supposed to be going to for a year as I didn’t feel that I was “yet” ready to respond to the calling. So definitely really agree that it’s right that it should be done in God’s time and not in our own time… I wrote a post exactly about the joys of ministry here (https://awkward-reverence.com/2017/02/03/moments-of-joy/) – sorry it sounds a bit like shameless plugging – because I was feeling the same way as you – it’s sometimes too easy to get bogged down with the sacrifice rather than with the joys of ministry. Sending lots of prayers 🙂

    • nickparish says:

      Hiya. Thanks for the comment, and for the link (shameless plugs are allowed when they’re useful 🙂 )
      Just felt it was a timing issue (and I can see that some of what they said is simply because they’ve not seen evidence. It’s not that they think I can’t do it, just that they haven’t seen that I can. Therefore it’s not critical, in that sense, merely lacking in the full story, which is fine, because I just need to demonstrate something, not learn it)

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