16 April 2020
When I heard about ‘lockdown’, I thought “What a wonderful chance to get some work done—if only I, or someone near to me doesn’t become ill”. As I am retired, by “work” I meant preparing for “BAP”—the Bishops’ Advisory Panel. That is the Church of England’s three day selection exercise for choosing ordinands. Not priests, but people selected to become ordinands and undergo two to three years of ordination training to become first curates, and later priests. I have to admit, it’s rather a lot of hoops for someone who is already 61, but I am hoping that, if I am selected the Church will get 10 years of service from me in addition to the time I spend as a trainee and curate. And that’s all unpaid service, as if selected, I will be on the path to becoming an SSM, or Self-Supporting Minister.
Unfortunately, an unforeseeable family situation meant that it has been difficult for me to do as much work as I had planned. Nonetheless, I am optimistic about being ready by mid-June when my BAP will take place in its new virtual guise. I have spent 18 months analysing and worrying about traditional BAP and am much relieved that I will be able to do the new version without leaving home, rather than traipsing halfway across the country. Didn’t Jesus say, “Don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself”? The “proof is in the pudding” or in the BAP, as they say.
“Well, what is this ‘work’ all about?”, people ask me when I tell them I am in “discernment.” I have been in discernment for over a year and it has involved a number of conversations, essays, more conversations and more essays. All of these conversations and essays revolve around the church’s selection criteria, which include topics such as spirituality, faith, vocation, ministry in the Church of England, leadership, relationships, mission and evangelism, quality of mind and personality and character.
I have found the whole process immensely enjoyable. Since my experience with cancer, there is nothing I like more than reading the Bible and theology books, thinking, praying, and writing. Superficially, the process is largely about filling in forms and taking part in interviews, but the forms and interviews require you to dig really deep and I find that fulfilling. The fact that I find this all so satisfying makes me feel that I am following the right path. I am really looking forward to doing the training, which should start in September or October. I suppose that that might start virtually as well. No matter. It has been and will continue to be an amazing journey—even if I am turned down.
I have to thank Elaine for giving me so many opportunities to “test my vocation” by leading services and giving sermons. That is another big part of discernment. I also have to thank the congregations of St George’s and St Gabriel’s for so patiently enduring the ministrations and sermons of a fledgling. Hopefully by July we will all know where I stand. Either way, I will continue to “write stuff”. Can’t keep it in.