Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Called? What does discernment look like and do?

Last week I found myself engaged in brief conversation by a lovely young lady who wasn't in lovely young lady mode - the reason for this being that she had recently been to the Fens for a selection conference and not only been knocked back but had also been knocked down - and this got me thinking.

Bur first, for those of you who don't know the process the CofE use to select people for training, let me explain the what and how of the whole shebang - and then we can look at the lovely lady and her experience:

Initial Exploration
Having shared the feeling that you think God might be calling you to 'do something' in the Church you might find yourself engaged with by your own minister or pointed towards the DDO (Diocesan Director of Ordinands - the person who puts candidates up to the bishop for approval to attend a selection conference) who will either see you and start the process of discernment rolling by continuing with you or by passing you on to a local vocations advisor (like what I am).

Either way you will start to look at calling and how to test it and understand where it is pointed and many other criteria that selectors (people who will interview you at a BAP or DAP*) will be looking for. Sometimes the journey may branch off in directions that lead to Lay Ministry or perhaps Church Army or other directions: But is should always be done with (and for) you and never to you. If you feel uncomfortable, confused or troubled - Tell someone immediately. 

Preparation for 'Conference'
Once those on the vocation trail are satisfied that there is evidence of a calling then you might find yourself in a reading group where you will read (duh!) a variety of books and discuss them with the others. This gives you a chance to engage with others and dialogue in ways that might be a bit alien - but it is all part of the preparation (especially when some of the group are a challenge: Just make sure the 'challenge' isn't you!).

There will be meetings with the DDO (or one of their team) to discuss the criteria in more depth and draw out your views and feelings regarding what you feel and have experienced thus far.

There might be the added bonus of finding yourself enrolled in a course of study (I love the Old and New Testament distance learning courses from St John's or London School of Theology for this). Don't worry if you find yourself asked to do a bit of study, this is merely there to demonstrate to yourself (most importantly) that you can cope with the academic stuff and it will also help selectors see who they have before them.

The Conference itself
Three days at a conference centre where, once you've got your room squared away, things kick off with the 'Personal Inventory': Forty minutes of 'quick fire' questions which relate to the three selection interviews - Education, Pastoral and Vocation. 

Then there's a pastoral exercise to think about: 500 words to someone with a problem (I'll let them have my address!) that needs addressing (and here's a tip - offer support but don't be directive

The sun comes up and after breakfast and a spot of church you get a chance to share your presentation and get a discussion going: But remember you are leading and being led so you have to be as switched on for the other's presentations as you wanted those around you be for yours!

Then they feed you and it's into the selector's interviews which are challenging and, if my conference was anything to go by, require sleep directly afterwards! The next day you'll have more selector interviews as required to ensure you've done three and then there's a bit of decompression in the shape of the Eucharist and off you go to your homes where, if you are like me, you'll have no idea which way is up and how you've done.

Then comes the wait for the letter: Generally there are three outcomes (an a hint: People don't 'fail' a BAP or DAP and it is not a rejection of those who have attended. Well not that I have seen - but that's not how others might perceive it):

NOT YET - This is a 'Not recommended',but it should have the added 'not at this time', because you can return and play again at a later date.

SOMETHING ELSE - Where ordination is not discerned or indicated the path of Lay Minister (or perhaps Church Army) is suggested. The whole thing is about putting round pegs into round holes and so where a square peg is found, a square hole will be suggested)!

NEVER - I was shocked when I first encountered someone who was effectively told 'Don't send this person ever again!'

So there you have the scene set for the next act (which will probably be tomorrow as I'm rushing out again for a meeting - oh deep joy!)

* BAP - Bishop's Advisory Panel: Two and a half days away where you undertake certain exercises and engage in interviews with a view to being selected for training for ordained ministry (stipendiary or non-stipendiary - that means paid or unpaid)

DAP - Diocesan Advisory Panel: Time away where you are interviewed with a view to becoming an OLM (Ordained Local Minister) in the diocese in which you reside.


Red said...

Great to see someone writing on this - I'm in the process of writing a guide to discernment! There's so little to really prepare people for it & it can be so draining emotionally.

Vic Van Den Bergh said...

- there are another couple of blog entries on this and there are probably a couple more on the way over the next few days - help yourself if there's anything you can use (and thank you for looking to do something)


Tom Rodgers said...


Can I use the cartoon for my church magazine please?

Tom R

Vic Van Den Bergh said...

Goodness me - like buses as two come a long together.

Feel free to use it :-)


Red said...

Thanks Vic, I'll let you know if there is anything and I'll give you a mention!
Jules :)