Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Called? Wrong result and responses!

So, continuing with the story of the lovely lady who wasn't so lovely because of her experiences relating to having offered herself for ordination and having explained where she was, let us continue...

As I said in the first post of this series, this young lady hadn't just been knocked back but had, more tragically, also been knocked down and the eyes of the beholder see those two words, 'I'm sorry'.

Having invited her to share her feelings and the situation following the conference in terms of engagement with those who had stood with her on the vocations trail and what she thought the letter had said I found myself in the midst of a real firestorm as the pain and anger and frustration and other stuff poured out of her. So much so that I'm not sure that I quite know where to start (it didn't seem right to ask her to wait whilst I got a pen and paper and wrote it all down, she wanted a pastor not a secretary!).

But here's the essence of it all:

From the closest to her on the journey the response was, 'Oh dear, we must get together when I'm free!'

Her supporting cleric, after some muttered words of comfort, then said that she wasn't expected to attend the church council (PCC) meeting and would not be expected to shadow them anymore in the light of the 'No' that she had received from the selectors!

Tears running like rivers my young lady went on to tell me how a few days later she'd had a call from a friend who had been at the PCC meeting where the Vicar had told the gathered audience how their candidate had 'failed selection!' Her friend rang to make sure she was O.K. and to invite her out for a coffee (what did we do before Costa I wonder?).

I have to admit that this is where I took the opportunity to mirror her pain, frustration and anger as the inept behaviour of her Vicar took a hold of me (I'm still available should the bishop consider creating the joint posts of diocesan hitman and arsonist - although as they weren't from our diocese perhaps that needs to be part of the Archbishop's Team: Over to you ++Justin). I can understand the confusion and pain felt by someone who has a congregation member return from conference and be wounded by the subsequent happenings but what I heard was perhaps the most downright pastorally inept actions I have ever encountered.

As we talked I realised that she had in fact been 'binned' by her leader and, like those who attempt to make the grey beret that is SAS theirs, she had effectively been RTU'd (returned to unit) - a single act that adds humiliation to the disappointment of the wrong outcome. It was now some weeks since the letter and although she'd seen a vocations person who had offered tea and sympathy and the promise of support in continuing exploring her vocation, the Vicar had effectively sidestepped her and because of this she had now absented herself from that church. The problem was that I couldn't blame her for doing so!

I asked who had contacted her in the church family and found that you could count those who had offered support on two fingers, the rest had kept their distance and, as her anger had risen, increased the distance to escape the fallout. Her own family were confused and wounded by the lack of effective support and her friends, some from other churches, were encouraging her to 'shake the dust' and move on where she could be used and loved in equal measure.

So I told her to go and challenge her Vicar over the response and the distancing and to ask how she was going to stand with her. I told her that it would be O.K. to cry, acceptable to shout and just a little too far to take a stick or sharp object (and at last I got a laugh!). 

I told her that what she had shared was neither 'something else' (like Lay Ministry) or a 'never again' but was merely ('merely' here being at the same level that says Hiroshima was merely a bomb someone dropped!!!) an invitation to step back, read what was really written rather than the interpretation that had been taken on board, and return with the bumps in the road flattened. It was people pointing out issues that needed some tinkering with rather than an epic fail and the end of the world - just an extremely painful episode on the way to giving birth to a new ministry. 

So we chatted a bit more and we prayed (the first Vicar to do that with her - how shameful is that?) and she left to visit her relative (looking like Marc Bolan on a bad day with all the smeared mascara and stuff - thinking now I ought to have told her :-(  ) and hopefully return home to make an appointment with her Vicar.

And that's my conversation in a nutshell. Names, locations and the like have been changed to protect the wounded and the guilty alike (who says I don't do Grace?).

And I'll end this entry with a plea: Brother and sisters, if you see someone caught up in journey to vocation then handle them gently; correcting in love and guiding with hope and the understanding that whatever part of the journey they are on, there but for the grace of God it could be you!

Deal with them as you would wish to be dealt with.

Encourage those who are discerning their call and pray for those who work with them.

And best of all, ask God what your calling is and have the courage, like my young woman, togo forward with it and to continue even when other make that journey harder - for we are all weak and flawed at times: That's why we need Jesus, innit?



Red said...

another great post. So sad that I've found in my research that this is all too common an occurrence, nothing in the way of support if you get a no at BAP. Not great for an organisation based on the values of love and compassion!

failed candidate said...

If I didn't know better I would think this was my story. Having been told I had failed my Vicar cancelled my room at the clergy conference where I was coming as an observer.

Thank you for writing this and for the hope I have taken from it that what others see as a No is perhaps merely a Not Yet as they didn't say don't come back.

May God bless you richly,


Anonymous said...

I read this at my desk and wept buckets as I read this blog and realised that i was not alone and that there are people out there who care.


Vic Van Den Bergh said...

Thank you for your comments - this topic is much sadder than I could ever have thought :-(

UKViewer said...

You know my views on the total abandonment that can follow a Not Suitable for Training for Ordained Ministry at BAP. I shared them with you at the time.

While my Vicar was supportive, his mistake was to insist that I take six months to recover and not to seek to discern anything in that time. Well, that six months was me carrying on as normal as if nothing had happened, when I was in a period of grief at the loss. Many individuals in the parish, disagreed with the decision of the selectors, but the reality was that the Bishop had virtually told me in writing, not to bother reapplying - go away and do something else.

The diocesan vocations team were unsympathetic and unhelpful to say the least - and totally refused to allow me to attend any lay training at all. I was a pariah in their eyes for some reason. Not helped by the departure of the DDO and post gapping, the total lack of a dedicated vocations adviser for two years, and their rebuff, quite rudely of anyone who sought to intercede on my behalf.

Now, two years later, I'm in a different parish and diocese, having gone where I was 'wanted' and am nearing the end of the first year of LLM Trg. And, just about to face selection for the 2nd and 3rd year. The process is quite similar to that for BAP, but in a much more friendlier climate, with people who are supporting me 110%.

Perhaps I started the journey towards ordination in the wrong place and the preparation and formation was flawed, but ultimately, any failure was mutual, mine in not convincing the selector of my suitability and the Churches failure to offer anything else. Aftercare for those receiving a NOT at BAP was appalling than, and evidenced from your post, remains appalling today.

My DDO at the time said, don't rush into 'Reader' training, as you will always see it as second best, and will resent any ordained minister that you serve alongside? This is so totally untrue, that I'm surprised that he thought it a wise thing to say to someone in my position. I should have started straight away, but having delayed and moved, discover that he was totally misguided.

In the end, God comes through, where the Church fails. Prayer, reconciliation and perhaps just a bit of spiritual comfort helps as does time. But I still watch the Vicar raising the Chalice and a voice says to me, "Why aren't you doing that".!!!

DrJG said...

I have a friend going through the selection process at present, so I know some of the stress involved. But I have also met one or two people in the past who told me earnestly that they felt that they had a calling to the priesthood despite not, as far as knew, being even regular churchgoers. Combine that with the shocking attitude that has been described here from a couple of other vicars, and I am perhaps not quite so surprised that some get a "do not send again" response.
Listening to my friend describe her hoops, I have wondered at times how many of the giants of our faith would pass the selection process - someone like Gladys Aylward being a well-known example. Doesn't mean I can offer any better options, thought...

Vic Van Den Bergh said...

The whole discernment process is a rocky and tempestuous journey to be embarking upon for sure.

Gladys Aylward is a hero of mine, she came to faith and worshipped in Norbury Chapel in Notting Hill Gate (now Kensington Temple) - and she is proof that sometimes calling is wrongly held in the eye of the beholder.

I have to say that I have a high degree of confidence in the system but there are times when you wonder who they've seen or who has seen them that come forward.

Hey ho - all we can do is test, prayer and support them.

Thanks (as ever)