Monday, 22 April 2013

Becoming a 'Vicar' - Crashed and burned at Selection Conference

I find myself having many conversations with people who tell me how they 'failed' or 'weren't selected' for ministry training in the Church of England. Stipendiary, Self-Supporting (SSM, the ministry formerly known as NSM) or Ordained Local Ministry (OLM) - they've been off and spent some time with assessors who have discerned that 'ordained ministry' is the calling presenting in the person before them (or at least not yet it isn't).

The problem is that what many hear is that, to use the words of one, 'Weren't wanted,' and this is not what selection does, says, or is. What it should be is an aid to help the person presenting themselves discern where they fit - after all, a square peg might well fit into a round hole but it takes lots of hitting with a hammer and damages the peg and the place you're trying to fit it. Better still to see and hear who they are and guide them gently into the right shaped receptacle for them. Less filing, banging, friction and pain all round.

So when someone I converse with on a fairly regular basis wrote, 'I offered for SSM and my offer was declined for perfectly good reasons. However, the report recommended me 'For Ministry in the Church of England' but with no caveat of which type of ministry?' I struggle a little!

I can understand the selectors writing, 'Not this one!' But when the response carries with it the additional words, 'But recommended for 'Ministry in the Church of England', ' I am a little at loss.

There are so many avenues for offering oneself as a worker in the Church of England, there are:

Ordained: Stipendiary Priests and Deacons (paid), Self-Supporting Ministers (unpaid Priests and Deacons), Ordained Local Ministers , Ordained Pioneer Ministers.

Lay:  Mission-Shaped Ministry, Pastoral Care Ministry, Pioneer Ministers, Prayer Ministers, Spiritual Growth Ministry, Readerships, Worship Leading and Youth Ministry (to name but a few).

Other: There are so many opportunities to offer ourselves for roles at church (and other levels) and these are as numerous and diverse and the numbers of churches, ministries and people that we have. The key is to look, feel the match and put oneself forward.

The issue with my friend quoted here is that there appears to be neither parish or diocesan level support for them and their quest to be used and useful in the right place.

They say that they feel a call to, 'Proclaim the Gospel in a public-facing ministry role,' and this can be done in a number of areas, not just ordained, but lay and not just pulpit-based but on the streets in evangelistic settings, teaching (sermons are not the only place for this) - but without support and prayerful guidance, discernment and care, we leave those 'feeling called' confused and, as time passes, impotent, frustrated and perhaps bitter too!

The warning to the Church of England is that I meet too many who echo the words of the person thus far quoted:

'Perhaps I just need to pack it all in and sit in the pews like the rest and be 'done to', or go somewhere else. Unfortunately, the call persists'

They say that cuts have removed Lay Training from the menu for 2013 - 14 (which is pathetic and destined to diminish the numbers coming forward for training and finish off those like our writer) and that there is no one outside of parish clergy - who should be the first port of call and then be supported a diocesan level - to engage with or find succour and guidance.

Shameful, sad, frustrating and unbelievable.

We need to support and encourage those who feel they have a calling - it's what we do:

Equip - Train - Release - Celebrate


UKViewer said...


Thanks for highlighting these issues. And nothing has changed since I wrote that.

I've done some training in Developing Discipleship and Pastoral Care, which have been hugely beneficial for me personally, but that was something to hold the fort until we get a new Vicar, which could be another 6 months away, as our Parish Profile is still being written.

I'm going to have a chat with our Area Dean soon to see if there is any way in which he can help. He approved the training that I did, so perhaps we can look outside the diocese for 'Missioner' training (reference your blog the other day).

Anonymous said...

I have found my calling but it was despite the Church of England rather than because of it. I tried very hard to seek C of E training and advice but it was like butting my head against a brick wall.

Anonymous said...

"'Weren't wanted' and this is not what selection does, says or is."

I'm sure the church believes this is true. But the system that is in place makes it very difficult to experience being turned down after a BAP as anything other than a rejection, and a violent one at that. If you spend up to 2 years carefully and often painfully working through a discernment process with your DDO, get recommended to the Bishop, go and see the Bishop and get recommended to a panel, and then are turned down (in my case) primarily on the basis of a single interview with a vocational advisor who you have never met before, it's difficult not to take it very hard. They say it's not rejection, but it sure feels like it.

Vic Van Den Bergh said...

I know many who have not been selected and the pain of rejection and not being 'wanted' has scarred more than a few.

It is irresponsible for us to send people and then not support them afterwards, regardless of outcome, at parish and diocesan levels.

Rejection aside, the greatest pain came from those who had found themselves elevated as potential ordinands and then dropped and becoming a bit of an embarrassment following the BAP.

Need to think about how I can be effective here in getting support in place - I will return.

Thank you all for your comments my thoughts and prayers are with you