God is weird: PART 2

An Ordination Candidate’s Experience of The Discernment Process

In the car on my way back to the barracks, I turned to my husband and asked if he’d heard what the Bishop had said. He had. Well? Well, what? Hadn’t he heard the Bishop was say I should become a vicar? No, he had not heard that bit. It was a tense journey. The message seemed clear in my mind. And as I’d just promised to live the rest of my life for Jesus, which meant making some big sacrifices and changes, so I decided there and then to leave the army and work out if I really was called to become a priest.

My husband was very understanding. All he asked in the car was, “Where will we live? What will they pay you? Will you get a car?” Our lives might be very different from now on. Our hopes as a newly married couple of a certain lifestyle and combined salaries would need some realigning. I sensed my husband was sad about the holidays we probably wouldn’t have and the new Mercedes he’d definitely never have. I couldn’t answer any of his questions, as I didn’t know any vicars. This thing needed exploring, which he agreed I should do. I thank God for this marvellous man who was and is totally fine with me giving it a go.

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The thing was, I still couldn’t get my head around why God would want me. I just seemed like such an inappropriate choice. One of the earliest stumbling blocks, was that I personally knew a much more sensible candidate and simply couldn’t figure out why she hadn’t been called. She was a fellow Army Officer, a devout Christian, and she had a well-maintained and state of the art moral compass. She was wise and kind, and a competent leader. She really would be the better choice.

It didn’t occur to me at the time that, even if she felt she had a priestly vocation, she couldn’t take it very far, being a Roman Catholic. But still, I thought, if you take anyone Lord, take her!

I looked at my life and thought, wow God is weird. This can’t be right. It can’t be me, God, come on! (I’m told this denial phase is totally normal). I’d done some stupid stuff. Stuff I was embarrassed about. Stuff I was sorry about. What on earth would the Church do with me? A rugby playing, weight lifting, craft gin drinking, potty-mouthed, Army Officer? Aren’t priests supposed to be mild mannered and quiet? Reflective and peaceful? I was more likely to be found on the floor of the Officer’s Mess at 5am, showing off in front of everybody by challenging the Regimental Sergeant Major to a press-up competition, than saying my morning prayers.

Seriously God, you don’t want me leading a church.

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That night in bed, having decided I’d do my very best to follow Jesus, even if it meant exploring ordained ministry, I looked at my life and wondered how much of it I’d have to change. Indeed, would the lot have to go? Part of my discernment process has been trying to filter the bits I think Jesus rather likes about me, which perhaps make Him smile, and the bits that make Him face-palm, and say “No, Rachael, that’s definitely in the redemption pile.” A rather timely moral MOT. And it’s an ongoing process.

Spilling the Beans on a “Need to Know” Basis

I sat on this vicar-secret for what felt like ages. I was pretty embarrassed about it. Firstly because, as I’ve said, it seemed so unlikely, and secondly because it seemed so dreadfully arrogant. What gives me the right to think I could be a Priest, when I’ve only been a Christian for five minutes, when there are others before me that should do it, and, frankly, I’m not entirely sure what being a Priest is all about?

After a few weeks I confided in the man who married me. No not that one, the other one. Padre Justin Bradbury. We’d already spoken quite a bit about my new faith during marriage prep, and I trusted him implicitly. He seemed like a very wise and measured man.

I must admit I was rather hoping he’d say I’d lost my senses. But, alas, he recognised something and suggested my next move. He told me priests needed a degree in theology, so without further ado, I made an enquiry at Cranmer Hall, Durham University. It seemed sensible to move back up North to my home in nearby Darlington while I worked all this lot out.

To my surprise, the Deputy Warden Kate Bruce, who had arranged a meeting with me to listen to my inquiry, offered me a place there and then on the course as an Undergraduate, beginning in the September. I was totally at a loss. It was so very unexpected, and unlikely. But I had agreed to walk through doors if they opened when I pushed them. So, that was that. I couldn’t believe it. I was going to study theology as an undergraduate at Cranmer Hall alongside real trainee priests. This should help me work out if I could imagine myself as one of them.

As I stood to leave, still trying to keep Kate’s Labrador away from my crotch with my briefcase (a futile task), she asked if I’d seen the DDO. What’s a DDO? I wondered, hands covered in saliva. The Diocesan Director of Ordinands interviews and processes everyone exploring a vocation. I needed to book an appointment with him as part of my discernment. This scared me. This would make it official. More official.

Part 3 is out now

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PART 4 of 5 (link to full blog at bottom)

An Ordination Candidate’s Experience of The Discernment Process:

Where’s My Pigeon Hole?

Back to the process itself. The DDO assigned me a Vocations Advisor (who has since left and I’ve been assigned a new one) whom I met every couple of months to discuss how my discerning is going. These meetings are like a very long three-way job interview. The church is looking at me and I’m looking at the church and myself and we’re all looking to God and asking “Is this right?” After my first meeting with the DDO it was apparent I knew pretty much nothing about church. This was also confirmed in my meetings with my first Vocations Advisor. We’d been looking at the 9 criteria, a set of qualities which candidates have to show/possess, in order to be considered for training. I stumbled at the second of nine. Not a great start.

I’d have to show “an understanding of my own tradition within the Church of England, an awareness of the diversity of traditions and practice, and a commitment to learn from and work generously with difference”. Tricky, as I didn’t have a tradition. I didn’t fancy (and still don’t fancy) having to decide what kind of Christian I am.

https://camouflageandcassocks.com/2017/10/19/god-is-weird-part-4/ An Ordination Candidate’s Experience of The Discernment Process

In the car on my way back to the barracks, I turned to my husband and asked if he’d heard what the Bishop had said. He had. Well? Well, what? Hadn’t he heard the Bishop was say I should become a vicar? No, he had not heard that bit. It was a tense journey. The message seemed clear in my mind. And as I’d just promised to live the rest of my life for Jesus, which meant making some big sacrifices and changes, so I decided there and then to leave the army and work out if I really was called to become a priest.

#extract #blog #discernment #vocation #calling #churchofengland #anglican #future #vicar #church #cofe 
https://camouflageandcassocks.com/2017/10/17/god-is-weird-part-2/ An Ordination Candidate’s Experience of The Discernment Process.

So You Want To Be A Vicar?

I’m a candidate somewhere near the beginning of the formal process where the Church is discerning if God is calling me to ordained ministry. Risky, therefore, to be publishing my experiences and thoughts on the discernment process whilst I’m still in it. But I think it’s worth the risk, because in the very first few weeks and months after I felt “called” I really knew nothing about discernment (more on me knowing nothing later) and wondered if I was completely alone/insane in sensing a calling, so I turned to the internet to read blogs about this well-trodden path, from those wo had gone before me.[1]

Whilst I found blogs detailing what actually happens at BAP (the national selection panel, but don’t call it aselection panel!) there were few, if any from people this side of it. The blogs were from folks on the other side; those who had been recommended. Perhaps it’s too painful to drag up and write about if the panel said no.

So this is a blog from an insider who has no idea where her future will be. I’m inviting you to follow this journey with me over these 5 instalments, through it’s many twists and turns. There are many hoops to jump through, interviews to be had, prayers to be prayed, and ultimately a number of wise clergy and lay people will make a decision. I’ll be recommended to train for ordained ministry, or I won’t… or option three, I’ll be deferred until I’ve worked on whatever it is that’s needs developing further; the “not yet” category.

Read the rest here:

https://camouflageandcassocks.com/2017/10/16/god-is-weird-an-ordination-candidates-experience-of-the-discernment-process/

#vocation #discernment #churchofengland #anglican #womenandthechurch #priest #ordainedministry #candidate #jobinterview #faith #christian #calling @thechurchofengland #womenleaders #thisgirlcan
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