The joy of… ordinand?! How being an ordinand is like being pregnant – Luke1:39-45

Nativity detail from altar window, All Saints Church, Cuddesdon
Nativity detail from altar window, All Saints Church, Cuddesdon

I mentioned yesterday that amid the grief (and other Christmas aggravations like the alternator going on the car) there have only been will-o’-the-wisp moments when I have connected with the Christ-child this Christmas.

As I prepare to write a 5000 word essay this week, and re-start my hospital placement (grotty cough permitting) I wanted to reflect briefly on what those glimpses have said been, and what I’ve allowed the Christ-child to give me. They are what I have been given to build-up my sense of Christ’s presence with me as I return to my Benedictine studies.

I didn’t make church on 23rd December (Advent 4) because I was simply feeling too rough. Instead I sought out the sermons of clergy friends on Twitter, to feed what little brain I had. I lit upon this sermon from Reverend Ally. She reminds us of the questions Mary asked of Gabriel at the annunciation, which reflect quite closely those that many ordinands ask themselves, including “Why me!?”.  She goes on to talk about what happens after Mary declares her obedience to God’s will, and specifically about the joy of Mary’s meeting with Elizabeth (Luke 1:39-45). “Mary realises that God has not just asked a great thing of her, he has also given her a great thing” and that part of this gift is her common calling with Elizabeth, to which their miraculous pregnancies testify.

Being an ordinand isn’t so very different to being pregnant. You’re carrying something precious (your calling to serve Christ as a priest), can at times be very uncomfortable (there’s stuff asked of you that makes life painful), can feel incredibly lonely (not even a long-suffering spouse can really share the load, and they’re probably as worried as you), and you must be obedient to a detailed process you may not completely understand (portfolios require all sorts of detailed analysis that is almost beyond understanding, and then someone else arranges a curacy for you)!

For me this last term, it’s been a lonely journey. Cut off from parish life by the request that I focus on my studies, I’ve felt isolated at college by being the ‘odd one out’ (as the only one currently attempting a ‘mixed-mode MA’) and a strange unwillingness to take part in the regular and extra-curricular activities that would draw me into relationship with fellow ordinands. It’s like I’ve got too good at saying ‘no’ I’ve forgotten to say ‘yes’ occasionally, and the cost has been a painful isolation from those I’m journeying with.

Revd Ally goes on to say

One of the greatest gifts that God gives to us is each other. And it is so often the case that we can only truly find joy, or at least, fulfillment, in our responsibilities when we share those burdens that weigh heavily on us.

She’s right, I’ve been missing out on the joy of being an ordinand, focusing purely on ‘obeying the call’ and the sense I can’t possibly do the really scary bits of what is expected of me, and this is something I need to rectify in 2013.  Just as Christ was incarnate through Mary’s pregnancy, so I need to hold Christ incarnate within me, ’embracing and enjoying’ with others what Jesus is doing within my life and obedience to his call, so that that it might live joyfully now (like a squirming foetus eager for the world), and be incarnate in my future ministry seeking to recognise Christ in others, and make him recognisable to others.



  1. Sometimes when I read of the pain you are going through to follow your vocation, I’m grateful for BAP for saying NOT to me. Because, I don’t know how I would have coped. Perhaps the difference would have been that I would have been in a cohort of people studying together at SEITE, and therefore sharing the ups and downs with fellow ordinands.

    I sense that despite all, your journey is the one that you feel and know is right and that you are committed to – and perhaps your support network is absent due to your not being able to join your own cohort on a regular basis. From what I little I know of training – it is supposed to be a time of joy, reflection, formation and preparation shared with others. I wonder about the wisdom of your being separated from Parish life, which I find as a constant source of support, fellowship and celebration.

    As I try to find out what form my vocation is to take, particularly as my Vicar has now left and we are in interregnum, I commence a 3 month day release course at CWR Farnham on Deepening Discipleship and Vocation which is designed to assist me in the envisaged role as Parish Missioner? The training pathways is convoluted and still under development. It seems a mix of Mission Shaped Ministry and Evangelist – at least a year or so before I am licensed for that. So frustrating as things move at the Churches speed, not the speed I feel God is calling me to?

    And, as it’s new, sources of help are thin on the ground. Thank God for my SD and one or two enlightened individuals providing advice and guidance. But there is a general lack of understanding of what is entailed, mostly from me. I have produced a work agreement, which is now in abeyance due to the lack of a Vicar and it’s likely to be up to 12 months before that moves again.

    So, while you struggle through training and formation, just know that others struggle just as much for other roles in the church. Praying for you.


  2. I also find it is like being pregnant (although I have never been in that situation) because you can not talk of it until they say “yes” at the BAP just as when you are with child you don’t want to talk in definite terms in case anything goes wrong. In many ways in it also like a marriage proposal, you are offering yourself to the church and you are waiting to see what their response is to you. It is also rather akin to “coming out of the closet” in many ways, in particular for me telling my family- which I won’t unless the BAP says “yes”.


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