Well, I’ve had a long think about where to go and study theology.
It’s actually a much bigger decision than some people realise. Even with the “standardisation” of some of the qualifications for ordinands these days, each theological college has a certain amount of leeway in how it teaches and also what it teaches.
This means that choosing where you go can be pretty critical in how you’re formed in a vocational sense.
I took advice and visited a number of different places, trying to figure out where I’d fit in. How was the day structured? What was the worship like? And most importantly, that intangible…how did I feel when I was there?
Well, I was quite lucky. It came down to three places but one of the two I really liked did make me an offer. I talked it through with my DDO, in light of my recommendations from the BAP report. And we agreed that what I needed to work on could be provided by the institution I wanted to attend.
So it’s full steam ahead. The Bishop has given his blessing and now we’re sorted. Happy days really. A summer of anticipation awaits.
It’s a strange thing to have to tell people.
“I’m going to train for the priesthood.”
Many people have questions. Some say they’ve always known I’d be doing this. A few have been taken completely by surprise.
Everyone has been supportive and lovely. No-one has backed off.
I’ve now entered an intense period where I’ve got to find a theological college and get my affairs in order over the summer. But my feelings of euphoria have not dissipated. I don’t doubt they will at some point – but for now my own reaction has been summed up by gratitude to those who’ve got me this far – and glory to God for illuming my path.
We’re only just beginning
The week of waiting for my BAP result was, without question, the hardest week I’ve ever lived through. Anything life changing must be tough to deal with but I’d no idea how much I wouldn’t be able to concentrate on anything else aside from how I’d done in BAP.
And what I’d do if the answer was no.
There’s something vaguely strange about seeing the Bishop’s name and number flash up on your phone. You rush off to find a quiet place to talk, hoping no-one in work sees the colour drain from your face. You try to keep your voice from shaking.
None of that matters when he tells you you’ve been recommended.
Much of the rest of the conversation is a blur. But it’s there. I’m going. Glory to God in the highest!
Now…where to study…?
Some time ago, I went to my BAP – which is the culmination of the national selection process attended by all candidates for ordination in the Church of England. It comes after many months and years of preparation, reflection and prayer – and after the completion of a lot of paperwork!
Reflecting on the days I spent in that environment brings back a whole host of feelings and emotions. At the end of the last day I was fairly spent physically – it really takes it out of you. A lot of wondering “could I have answered that in a slightly better way?” And there is always a nagging fear at the back of your mind. It’s no small thing to offer your life and yourself to God in service. What if the answer is no? Where does that leave us? Those questions have stayed with me ever since I returned home.
But how spiritually uplifting the whole thing was! I was privileged to meet some wonderful people whose faith and witness to Jesus Christ was amazing to see. Everyone was so gracious and generous with time and prayer. I thanked God for bringing me to that place at that time – after all, the journey is as important as the destination.
And how did I do? Well, that’s a story for another time…
There’s a caveat to my vocation story: I didn’t receive a billboard from heaven or have God speak to me to tell me I should be a priest. That’s not how I came to be on this journey. For some it can be, although that tends to be an important first step rather than the whole picture.
Recently, I’ve spoken to a lot of people who are thinking about offering themselves for ordination. For some, like me, it can be an inkling, a feeling that grows over time. In my experience, that happens if you spend Sundays at places like this:
During mass this morning, I must admit I got lost in what was going on with my own situation and wasn’t totally focused on what was happening in church (should I go to confession for that?).
I always get a tingling whenever I enter a church, and it’s heightened during the Mass. And today I wondered what that was. Is it God working in a way I can’t comprehend? Is this feeling the driver behind me pursuing this path?
I don’t doubt it’s part of it. But I think it’s a major facet. And more importantly, this has become something I feel I can’t ignore any longer. That more than anything is why I looked deeper into this feeling.
Vocation is something that is personal by its very nature. Yet I’ve been amazed by the amount of people who offer support and advice once they here that you’re offering yourself for ordination. Most important of all are those who say they’ll remember you in their prayers.
It can be really daunting to offer yourself for ordination. But don’t forget, there are a number of areas where you can get really good advice. The Church of England’s own website is full of useful information, and there are a number of vocation specific websites around. Click here for a very good one indeed.
But before all of that, my advice would always be to talk to a priest. Your own parish priest is ideal, but anyone who is ordained will have been through the process – or at least a version of it. My first step came with a chat to my priest, and even trying to frame the words helped to get my mind’s “filing cabinet” in order. It was by no means the only conversation I’ve had with him since, but that initial period of talking through my thoughts and feelings was invaluable.
Do listen to what they have to say though, and also don’t hesitate to ask them questions when they arise. The chances are the more you explore, the more you’ll want to know.
It’s an exciting journey.