OK God: Your Call! (Being recommended for ordination training) #fb

The octagon of Ely Cathedral, showing the central figure of Christ in Glory - photographed immediately before my BAP, 26th March 2012

The last few weeks have proved to be the culmination of an eighteen month journey which has changed the whole focus of my future ministry. The final stages of this journey have taken place through Lent, and therefore it seems only right to share my news on Easter Morning!

Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!!

For many years (preceding my training and licensing as a Reader in October 2009), various friends and associates have encouraged me to consider ordination, and I have tried hard to ignore it, taking the whole idea as a bit of a joke.

Becoming a Reader was, I now realise, part of the process God put me through to help me take the idea a little more seriously; a time too when I could focus on learning to preach and teach. In the final year of training various people, including some at my placement parish at All Saints Basingstoke, wondered if one day in the future I’d get ordained. Even as I was licensed I was aware that I didn’t quite ‘fit’ Reader ministry, but I thought this was due to my own inadequacies, rather than anything else; still I refused to take the idea of ordination seriously.

Before Paul, our previous vicar at St Peter’s Yateley left in July 2010, he challenged me to seriously consider whether I was in fact called to be ordained. [He actually pinned me up against a wall, in front of my husband, and said he’d had a vision of me taking my first wedding… “and you know what that means!” were his exact words!]

Paul was fond of telling us to test if ‘words of knowledge’ could be put down to “too much cheese” or were really ‘of God’. I promised him I would take the idea seriously, but hoped I could put that off till after the summer. Yet, his challenge was unwittingly echoed by the Royal Navy Padre (now Archdeacon to the Royal Navy) that I worked with on the Royal Marine funeral I assisted with a couple of weeks later. Why, this gentleman asked, was I a Reader and not a Priest?

Then again, before the end of August that summer, our friend (and previous curate at St Peter’s) challenged me over lunch at her house one Sunday: “When are you going to do something about the priesthood?”

It seemed like God was shouting at me to find out why it was that so many people I respected and trusted where saying this to me so vehemently, because I simply didn’t get what they saw in me that said ‘priest’.

To cut a long story short, in the months that followed, with the help and guidance of various people and books, I quickly came to understand that my passion for the church’s place in the community, the more sacramental forms of worship (in its widest sense), and the wider mission of the church (like those I have worked with through Mothers’ Union and my involvement preparing people for ‘occasional offices‘), were all elements of “me” that marked me out as a potential candidate for priesthood. I ached to ‘bless’ people, to come alongside them on God’s behalf in a way that I’m not totally able to as a Reader. It is like wearing a straight-jacket – Reader Ministry fits, but doesn’t give the freedom to really minister in the way I believe God is truly calling me to do.

I now realise that for me, I had to be a Reader to recognise for myself the call to priesthood that others had already identified as the pattern of my future ministry.

Part of the process has also included the setting aside of other foci in my life, including some of the things that had contributed to me reaching this point. For example, before my final selection conference I told fellow Mothers’ Union Trustees in the Diocese of Winchester that I wouldn’t be standing for election at the next triennial (having already set aside editing the MU Diocesan Newsletter ‘Archway’ last year.)

The beautiful garden (and view of Ely Cathedral) at Bishop Woodford House, where my BAP took place.

I understand that for me, the process of discernment and selection has been relatively swift at 18 months. Every advisor and interviewer I have seen, has whole-heartedly endorsed the view that I am called to ordination and this has, I understand, been fully confirmed by the reports that Bishop Jonathan Frost has apparently received following my Bishop’s Advisory Panel (BAP) in Ely in the week before Holy Week. The most important thing about this final part of selection, was the overwhelming sense of God’s peace I experienced, particularly on the first day but throughout this three day selection conference, and also the fact that I enjoyed what was three days of jolly hard work in a stressful situation – especially the three, hour-long interviews!

Bishop Jonathan phoned me with the news that I have been recommended for training for ordination following the Chrism Mass at which he preached in Winchester Cathedral on Maundy Thursday 5th April 2012.

I am so pleased that after being able to share the news with the parish in which I grew up (All Saints, Minstead in the New Forest) on Good Friday; the news will become completely public in St. Peter’s Yateley after Holy Communion on Easter Morning. As I write on Holy Saturday, it feels like someone is finally taking the cork out of a well-shaken bottle of champagne! Finally I can share all the important things that God has been saying to me over the last year or so 😉

So in the coming months I will become what is known as an ‘ordinand’. Since I have already completed a Foundation Degree in Christian Ministry and Theology as part of my Reader Training, I have been asked to complete only two years further part-time studies (rather than three.) This will be at Ripon College Cuddesdon, through a variation of their Oxford Ministry Course. The college is South-East of Oxford and just over an hour’s drive from Yateley. I shall visit college weekly, with two additional weekends training per term, and a summer school. The really scary bit for me is that though registered initially for a Post-Graduate Diploma, this may actually lead to an MA at the end of those two years.

My responsibilities and involvement in St Peter’s will also change, the details of which will probably become clearer over time. What I know at this stage is that with a new vicar in place, those advising me in our Diocesan Discipleship and Ministry Department are content to let me continue worshipping in Yateley as an ordinand. After I have been ordained – likely to be the summer of 2014, I will need to serve a curacy elsewhere in the Diocese; all that lies in the future.

I seem to have said so much, yet know it also is so little of what I have thought and wanted to share over the months. For those that are interested, or want to know more about how one person experienced the process of discernment and selection for ordination in the Church of England, I will write more in the coming weeks.

The back of Alton Abbey during my pre-BAP retreat March 24th 2012

To those who have been part of and prayed for this ‘hidden’ journey, to my colleagues and our new vicar Andy who has encouraged me on the final leg of the journey, to my spiritual director who has helped more than I can ever really reveal, to the DDOs and advisors, and to the monks of Alton Abbey who give me space to think, my particular thanks and praise for all their love and encouragement.

To my family who have cheered me on, and are sharing this journey for the long-haul, I am unendingly grateful – I love them all massively.

And to God, for making himself heard through the babble of my disbelief and inadequate understanding of who he has called me to be, in Jesus name and in the power of the Holy Spirit: To God, be the Glory, Great things He has done!

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About ramtopsrac

Church of England Priest, child of God, daughter of the New Forest, wife and mother.
This entry was posted in ministry, theology - how God fits in and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to OK God: Your Call! (Being recommended for ordination training) #fb

  1. Prior Andrew Johnson O.S.B. says:

    Thanks be to God, that he continues to make known the Risen Presence of his Son in and through you. Heartfelt blessings . . . . and you’ve got a hug in the bank. Love and prayers as ever. Andrew OSB

  2. tammyrich says:

    Really pleased for you Rachel. From all I’ve read of your blogs and tweets and facebook entries from afar it is clear that God is using you in a special way and has so much more to use you in. Priesthood or more like ordained ministry seems like a perfect way to get the best out of you and use you to His glory. Many rich blessings on you and your future parishes. Love Tammy xx

  3. elfringham says:

    Wow, that’s amazing and wonderful news. You must have arrived in Ely just two days too late to see Marnie and myself morris dancing around Ely and in front of the Cathedral. Ripon College is a lovely place, we went to a May Ball there back in 1990 I think it must have been.

    God bless you on your journey.
    Andrew

  4. C3 says:

    Woo Hoo! You’ll be a blessing to even more people now. Go for it and remember that your path may occasionally have obstacles but you’ve already proven yourself through several hurdles. And now, for the next step….
    C3

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  6. Mrsrector says:

    I’ve so been missing your blog but was praying that no news was good news…and so it was.
    So excited for you.
    Many blessings
    Sandra

    • ramtopsrac says:

      Great to hear from you Mrs Rector! No news, was indeed good news, though the reality of doing an MA “part-time” in less than 2 years is beginning to sink-in! Hope life’s treating you well.

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