Posted by: Postordinandy | April 29, 2011

On (not) being ordained

I first felt a gentle nudge towards Christian leadership in my late teens. This was quite a surprise to me at the time, as I was barely a Christian, and not yet a member of a recognised church community.

In my mid twenties, while on a 6-month mission trip to South America, I experienced a number of subtle (and some pretty emphatically unsubtle) pointers that seemed to come from God, and convinced me of a call to full-time Christian ministry.

When I came back to the UK, almost everyone I spoke to about this sense of call considered that it was to the Priesthood that I should go. I was never 100% sure – but then, who in their right mind would be? So I made enquiries and discovered that I should speak to someone with the odd sounding title of Diocesan Director of Ordinands. I spent a year or so chatting to this lovely man, all the while feeling neither of us quite understood what the other was going on about. I found a job as a Pastoral Assistant (a sort of ecclesiastical go-fer), and spent a year seeing if the vicar thing might fit… I enjoyed my year, but the DDO and I mutually concluded that neither the Church nor I were ready for each other.

So I entered a period of youth work, initially for a national organisation (but ½ time working for an Anglican church), and then for an Anglican church, and then an Anglican deanery (group of churches). Every time I moved jobs, I explored options outside of the CofE, but each time the only door that seemed to be open was within its gates, and so I remained a coincidental, if conscientious, Anglican.

While working for the Deanery, I again felt a significant tug towards ordained ministry. The Church of England had produced a pretty radical and exciting document called ‘Mission Shaped Church’, that argued for an acceptance and resourcing of broader models of church community and mission. Some of the things they said resonated with areas of mission and community life that I had felt instinctively drawn towards for some time.

Mission Shaped Church spawned a movement of some significance within the CofE, including the creation of ‘Ordained Pioneer Ministers’ (OPM). That seemed to fit my sense of spiritual identity and calling, so off I popped to see another DDO.

After what seemed like an eternity, including some time of semi-voluntary work as a pioneer type person for a church, the DDO agreed that I should go forward to the next stage in the discernment process – the Bishops’ Advisory Panel (or BAP). This is an intensive weekend, where your every movement is monitored by a sinister team of people. That description may not be entirely accurate. Anyway, against advice I made it clear that any calling I felt was to be an OPM, not a more traditional Priest. To my significant surprise, they recommended me for training. They actually seemed quite fond of me.

So I started at a theological college, and have spent the last 3 years reading for a degree in Contextual Theology. During this time I have also been working as a pioneer type for the same church in East London.

During this time of of study and work, and especially the final year, the wrestling with the call to ordained ministry has, if anything, intensified. For mostly utterly forgiveable reasons, the institutional structures of the Church have struggled to keep up with the theory of the new forms of church. Old habits die hard. Actually, many of those old habits don’t need to die – they are still appropriate for a good number of people. Old habits have a tendency to not give new habits all the room they need to flourish…

And so, as my peers were finding curacies, and getting ready to start the next stage of their ministry, I wasn’t.

There were not many pioneer curacies around, and those that did exist had an awful lot of other stuff to do as well, stuff that I just don’t feel called to do, that others can do with significantly more sincerity, authenticity and passion. The sense was that the pioneering element was usually an add-on to the ‘actual’ job.

I have really tried hard to play the game with integrity. Some have seen my increasing sense of the kind of ministry I feel called to as a stubborn refusal to do “what everyone else had to do”. But the thought of spending 3-4 years dong a job that brought me little life began to suffocate me. There is a degree of salesmanship in any church ministry, and I just don’t believe in the product enough to sell it convincingly.

I know the product works for some, I have seen this evidence with my own eyes. I even have friends for whom it is the only product that helps them. I want them to thrive, and so I want them to have ready access to that product. I’m just not the man to maintain it for them. I have another, similar yet different, model to sell. I believe in it, it works for me, and I have seen it work for others. The problem is that the Church is just not ready to have the range of products necessary for my sales technique to work.

And so I have made the decision to not get ordained. For now. Most people I have told are supportive of my decision, some have expressed concern or doubt. I’m trusting God will lead me here. Ordained ministry is still a possibility, but for now it feels like the disadvantages outweigh the advantages. We shall see.

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Responses

  1. It sounds like you made the right decision and a brave one. If it doesn’t feel right for you at the moment you will feel uncomfortable.

    Perhaps try out a few things you’d never consider doing normally: places, people, spiritual traditions. A change from the norm is like a breath of fresh air.

  2. Thanks very much for posting your story and reflection. I hope you will find what fulfils you and meets your sense of calling to whatever it is that you are being called to.

  3. I know this wasn’t a rash or easy decision. Brave but big step. I also know that serving God and others is at your heart. I believe this is the right decision but also well done on the way you have handled this. Dignified. Bet that’s not a word you were expecting 😉

    God bless every step, not just this one.

  4. Thanks for posting this, I recognised so much of what you describe in myself as well. I would say, trust your calling to bring about authentic community where unchurched people can find their place in God’s kingdom. Trust it, nurture it and the opening will come. (Presumably you will be able to be ordained later if you find a title post that’s right?) eventually the church who discerned your call will discern the sacrifice it has to make to allow your calling to flourish. All the best (and hope to bump into you again soon, maybe at GB?) H

  5. I have followed you for some time on twitter, but never here. I am currently in the hands of the DDO and looking forward to a Diocesan assessment in the next month of so, before I can be recommended for BAP.

    As I am NSM but of mature vintage, when I inquired about Pioneer Ministry I was told that it was a non-starter due to age and my lack of qualification for such work. At age 61 with 43 years life experience in the Armed Forces, in unusual situations, I think that the answer might be an evasion, rather than an outright no.

    I am comfortable to move forward in the system for some form of traditional ministry, but need to be prepared, despite NSM status to be deployable across the whole of a diocese for curacy and priestly ministry. This will require a degree of mobility, which will need a home move along with it – as I do not wish to live many miles away from a first title or later ministerial post.

    I am mentally prepared for this, as is my spouse. Fortunately, our circumstances are somewhat flexible and we do not have the responsibility of dependent children. A move will though, uproot us from our roots and grandchildren.

    I am prepared to do all of this, to guarantee flexibility and deployability, I wonder if the Church will demonstrate the same flexibility with me.

    I think that your decision is one of integrity and being true to yourself. I hope that when the time comes, if faced with a similar decision that I will have the moral courage to face it and make the right choice?

    I will be praying for you to find the path that is right for you in the future.

  6. God be with you Andy.

    I know that study is not wasted. As a Baptist, I obviously don’t believe in the ‘magic’ bits of ordination or in the title Priest. However, I think you are right in your self-knowledge: you ARE a leader, and in my mind’s eye I see you fantastically enthusiastic (deliberate double-entendre) about the community you are part of.

    There is a version of ‘integrity’ which is more about a refusal to get our hands dirty with the dirty business of real life. I don’t think that’s you, but it’s something to think about.

    Much love,

    Simon

  7. Dear Andy,

    Aged twenty I was a local preacher. Went to work in a Methodist mission to ‘test’ out my calling. I had to face the reality of a serious fire there. Praise the Lord nobody was hurt. I realised the full extent of commitment to a church which was under resourced.
    I went back into nursing which is a calling in itself, quite often in conflict with preaching rota etc. I even gave up preahing. For a while even ‘de-churched’ we placed family first, as my husband’s father is a minister who placed Church first. He has not seen his grandchildren for four years. Hence I do not hold Rev. in any high estimation.
    I call myself a very ordinary radical, I use the internet to reach people…. and to serve them, so please do not call me ‘cybergnostic’ like NT Wright. I have found local church communities to be clique and exclusive, oppressive to my gender, I go I worship I do not belong. I often work Sundays anyways. I have a chorister daughter so my life is run by a hospital and a Cathedral rota.

    God’s Kingdom is bigger and broader then the Church I actually think the establishment is just that, and perpetually amazed that God still works and uses it. Worship at Cathedral evensong was a bit like a spectator sport, people had popped into the historic building because it was Easter Sunday to witness us parading.

    God will use you no matter where, no matter when. Thirty years later after the mission has God used me to touch people? I will let others judge.

    God Bless your journey Simon.
    Lorraine

  8. Thanks for sharing so openly Andy, it certainly gives food for thought.

    I came to ordination in middle age, and just before such a thing as OPM existed – I felt dreadfully annoyed that I’d missed out on it – I came into ordination via prison chaplaincy and Cathedral ministry so I’d had very little to do with a ‘normal’ parish church for some time.

    I’m now in a fresh expressions ministry after 4 years of a standard parish based curacy and I don’t know if I’ll even end up in a parish based post again, but God can do some very surprising things.

    Your experience echoes that of others in training for OPM that I’ve met, it has worried me on their behalf that the selection and training for OPM was set up without any very clear idea where the curacies would be to complete people’s training – since the training for holding a ‘post of responsibility’ is deemed to be thoelogical college PLUS completion of curacy. Or indeed where the jobs are going to be after that for people who do need an income in order to be able to give themselves full time to ministry.

    You talk about the pioneer element being seen as an ‘add on’ to normal ordination, I’ve also talked to people who seemed to feel that ordination was being treated as an ‘add on’ to the calling to pioneering – ie it felt as if it was a box that needed ticking. That just isn’t a good enough reason to be ordained IMO and if that’s how it felt I think you are wise to take a step back and reconsider.

    HOWEVER – as I said earlier, God is a God of surprises, I know from personal experience and from watching other people who offer themselves for ordination that as one door closes another one will open, probably something you’ve never thought of doing! And I also know that nothing is ever wasted and regardless of whether you ever get ordained, the training will add something to your ministry.

  9. Andy

    As a vicars son and ‘youth leader’ pushed firmly towards an evangelical ministry in the late 90’s I found myself wrestling with the idea of becoming a ‘professional christian’, whilst still wishing to hold onto an anonymity my unordained faith offered me amongst my peers. In other words, I didn’t want my friends to box me of as the minister, pastor, priest, vicar, worship leader, verger; call it what you will. I valued their trust as an everyday bloke, and I knew that as soon as I levelled up, I would lose that day to day journeying of faith with my peers forever.

    I wanted to be allowed to make my own mistakes alongside their mistakes, without there being a prefixed standard of behaviour that I would instantly be judged against. I preferred the idea that I would have a sense of mystery in my decision making within which they might tap into, rather than a rule book denoting failure, from which they would run a mile…

    The result has been a ten year process of deconstructing my faith and involvement with any form of church organisation. Whilst this has often excluded me from the circles within which I used to enjoy fellowship, I do feel empowered to paint an outsiders opinion on what the church and its ministry looks like from the world’s point of view. For me, this outrospective viewpoint of a place I don’t want to be is all I need to continue forwards in my faith, for now at least.

    I mean this note as a way of encouragement for your journeying and seemingly brave decision making. I agree with SH that the business of real life is a dirty one, but I have found as much foul play committed within the church executive, as I have within ‘the world’, and often grace in abundance where church ideologies have long since been filtered away…

    Thanks again for your honesty

  10. Andy,

    You do not know me but we have a mutual Facebook friend in Johnny Douglas – that’s how I got to read this blog.

    I am really interested in your journey, and not knowing anything about you I wonder if you might elaborate on what you see as the ideal next move for the church. My wife and I are engaging in missional leadership and in the process of establishing a missional network called The Urban House (www.theurbanhouse.co.uk).

    Conversation is good, and it would be good to hear from you, may be you might want to add me as a friend on Facebook.

    Your journey is deeply personal, and it is important that you do not allow the expectations of those around you to deflect or distract you. God really loves those that are brave enough to think outside the box.

    God Bless,
    Jon Stockley

  11. Hi Andy,

    Totally respect your decisions. Be encouraged God works out of the box and His creativity keeps evolving-I believe that His creativity wants to evolve the church for today. I reckon His grace and patience often means he works in the box but wants us to keep up with Him.

    As a youthworker in CofE, we are meeting more and more newer generations who don’t understand church because they definately don’t live in a christendom context. It is about having fidelity to God and the message not the culture of church. Tradition may only help christians and those who are properly taught certain ways of ‘practising’. However, people with no church background can’t translate it. What is more important? To keep doing practices because they were done 200 hundred years ago or about taking the heart of the message and the truth of Christ to the cultures we are in now?

    You aren’t alone. I decided to try the ‘walk of witness’ at easter by my church (i havnt grown up in this culture). Despite my reservations, I thought I would try and meet God in the way Jesus walked to his death and it would be good to do it in community. I also thought it may encourage the town about the presence of the church. However, before the walk, there was a meeting and it came out that we are doing the walk to proclaim Christ’s death. It felt nonsensical to me that a group of christians would stand on a high street, shouting ‘crucify him, crucify him’. Especially, in a time when extremists advocate death and terrorism. Why don’t we walk down our high streets on Easter sunday, proclaming life! Instead, we stay in our buildings and celebrate the hope of Christ’s death?? Many of the people I know who are not Christians do not even understand what the word ‘forgiveness’ means. All I could think of was the ‘walk of witness’ gives more problematic messages than we all think. I have to confess, I felt completely sad about it and couldn’t carry on with the walk. However, I know people in their hearts do this with the best intentions. This is one example but I believe God has given us so much that we can effectively reach the context we live in.

    Praying for ya. Respect you for the decision you’ve made.

    Grace and Peace,
    Lizzie Telfer

  12. Hi Andy, I have posted something which hopefully provides a response and point of dialogue with your post here: what kind of ministers?

  13. Thanks Charlie, for both reading my own thoughts and writing your own so well. Much appreciated.

  14. Thanks Lizzie. As you well know, I’ve always felt called to those on and beyond the edge of the established Christian community, but have not wanted to operate outside of accountable structures. I may be wrong in thinking that there is no room for me to be me within the CofE – I bear her no malice, and am actually of the opinion that she has much to offer, not least of all her breadth in theology and practice. But, for now anyway, it looks like the ordination thing is not to be…

  15. @ Lizzie – funnily enough I’ve always found it weird that in the majority of C of E churches we only take to the streets to demonstrate our faith once a year – on Palm Sunday when we traipse out of church & back again impersonating the crowd who we are told turned against Jesus and demanded his crucifixion a few days later!

  16. Thanks Jon. I’ll try to respond to your question when I have a clearer head. Urbanhouse looks good, and I’ll track you down on Facebook too!

  17. Thanks Gavin. Appreciate your honestly too.

  18. Thanks Pam. One of the reasons for the post was to see if it resonated with others (I was hoping in a way that my experience was utterly unique, but expected it not to be). I remain hopeful that all of us get better at this stuff in time.

  19. Thanks Lorraine. Good to hear your story & I pray that God continues to use you.

  20. Andy,

    Found your blog from a post by Jonny Baker. I am a “candidate” for ordination in the southeastern U.S. (Savannah, GA). I recently made the decision to take a leave of absence from vocational, paid, ministry and am considering leaving off the entire ordination process after three years of seminary and three years of being an associate Pastor. It is good to know that there are others out there like. Thank you for gracious and brave post. I will pray that you are fruitful however God leads you.

    Greg

  21. Thanks Simon. You know me well enough to know that I have a pretty low theology of most things, including ordination. I don’t see the training as wasted – I’ll have a degree, have enjoyed much of my time, and made some lasting friendships. Thanks also for the challenge about what kind of integrity I’m manifesting – I hope it’s not the refusal one, I feel like I’ve spent a good number of years now dealing with dirt and mess, but I shall ponder further 😉

  22. Thanks Ernest. All routes of ordination have tough choices, some of which make sense, and others of which don’t. One of the reasons I opted for the ‘mixed mode’ of training (1/2 time college, 1/2 time placement) was I felt a call to practice ministry within a particular context – a context that no longer seems viable for me to pursue as an ordained individual. Geography is important, but of course each of us recognises that God may have other plans, and so we need to hold onto these things lightly. I suspect that you will be both pleasantly and otherwise surprised by the amount of flexibility the church can offer you. I pray that you continue to grow in confidence about the nature and deployment of your call.

  23. I think – in fact know – that the whole issue of leadership and ordination is something we are simply going to have to address. The model of one stipendiary ordained vicar per church is just not sustainable and has not been for some time.

    We need to look seriously at what we expect to happen in trad churches where there is not a vicar, as well as in new projects which have never had a vicar and are not designed to have a vicar.

    I know so many groups of churches where the reality of not having one clergy person per church is being ignored and the ordained staff are being spread more and more thinly as they attempt to find a way to provide a conventional ‘vicaring’ function in several churches while lay leadership is marginalised.

    We need to do so much more theologically to understand what the priesthood of all believers means in practical terms, and to reflect on and understand what God is doing – rather than try and make what God is doing conform to our expectations of what he should be doing.

    We need to devise patterns of leadership which don’t belittle anyone’s calling or squash people into the wrong mould because we are not imaginative enough to discern what God is calling them to.

    I hope that your experience and those of others in your position will add to the thinking that needs to take place.

  24. Thanks Heather. I’m trusting that, even in a fairly fragile state, I’m being open to God’s guidance. Ordained or not, I’ll continue to explore the small community stuff we have enjoyed in recent years, and to engage with those for whom the more established forms of church expression are a few steps too far. If we make it to GB I’ll look out for you (I’m applying for a job with them at the mo if you have time for more prayers!)

  25. Thanks Ryan. Bless ya.

  26. Thanks Doug, much appreciated.

  27. Thanks Claire. Appreciated.

  28. Thank you Greg. I’ll be praying similar prayers for you!

  29. Hi Andy,

    My name’s Steve and I’m a minister in training for the baptist church.

    I just want to commend your bravery and assure you that many of us have similar feelings of concern and sorrow for the institutional church’s limited support of pioneer ministries.

    But then, someone said to me yesterday that “the clue’s in the title”. I guess to some extent “pioneer” ministry must step out on it’s own two feet, take risks and not be dependent on institutional support.

    Having read the values of Urban Expression I decided to go into church planting with them. You might find it worth a look!

    http://www.urbanexpression.org.uk/our-values/our-values

  30. Hey Andy,

    Just saw the post, sorry for being out of the loop on this one!

    I applaud your honesty and integrity with which you have approached this decision and your vulnerability in sharing this with the wider world. Would love to catch up for a beer, coffee, grub and all of the above – you were there for me fella when i ‘wobbled’ when i first entered full time youth ministry – let us know when u r free mate.

    Marcus

  31. Thanks Steve. I agree that the clue’s in the title.
    I’m a massive fan of Archbishop Rowan William’s phrase “mixed economy” – by which he means room for all types of expressions of church, with each supporting and affirming the other. I’m sad to say that I see little evidence of this becoming a firm reality (one clergy person recently told me I was being very naive to even think it could be possible).
    I still hope that this can become a reality, but it feels at the moment that the institution is not able to resource and release ministry in this way – I could have been a curate who worked in the ‘usual’ way, but thus far there seem to be no opportunities to do so for me (there was one which might have worked, but it was not in a context that had sought such a worker, and the time-scale for curacies [3-4 years max] is such that to go somewhere new, discern what needs to be done, start to do it & get it to the stage it can be ‘passed on’ to others seemed impossible).
    I like Urban Expression – I did some teaching alongside Stuart M-W for Oxford CYM a few years back – maybe I should revisit it alongside some other options…

  32. Thanks Marcus. Always up for a beer, although at the moment I’m job hunting & trying to get a 5,000 word essay completed, while all along 2 of my 3 daughters are insisting on being full of wheezing…

  33. it would be good to catch up at some point. Admire the decision and having been to my first FE day in Oxford last week have to feel you made a good choice (check out my last blogpost). I still feel change comes from the edge and wonder how much pioneer training and FE etc is seeking control but we need each other. People argue for accountability but it needs to be relational rather than structural then it is far more real, Working out whether you should be on the inside or not is the big question, and one that we need to continually revisit, which it sounds like you are – all the best for the continuing journey Richard

  34. Thanks Richard. It would indeed be good to catch up, it has been a while since I’ve seen you in anything other than e-form. I read your post about the FE day, and think I know what you mean – there is always a tension (often unconscious, I think/hope) present when an institution attempts to tackle these things structurally. I think that Graham Cray et al are genuinely trying to create a culture of permission with respect to pioneers, but with obvious limitations. One key problem, I think, is that the FE department seems to have a slightly confused function – is it there to help those on the edge minister more effectively to those ‘outside’, or does it exist to educate the existing structures and people about the need for the same?
    Many of the projects on the various DVDs are excellent, but I’m not always sure if they are genuinely new forms of church community & mission, or ways that the church can carry on ‘as normal’, broadly speaking, just do things slightly better…

  35. Dear Andy – I admire your courage – it’s all too easy just to take the obvious next step even when it doesn’t feel exactly right – and it always leads to trouble! I am sure the right thing for you and your family will come up, Sue x

  36. […] of human sexuality, please use the contact form here. Thanks for visiting!Have just read this sad post over on Andy’s blog. Andy has recently withdrawn from offering himself for ordained ministry, […]

  37. I read this a while back and held back.

    I guess in some folks eyes I am the opposite of a ‘Fresh Expression’, in that I converted to Anglicanism from the New Churches because I believe ‘Reformed Catholicism’ to be true – Sacraments, Episcopacy, Liturgy, etc. Having said that I support FE and sit on the Rural Round table, and would love to be in a more Pioneer role.

    The issue with some Pioneer FE’s is that they don’t have that Anglican identity (even if the Pioneer does) and problems occur when the Pioneer moves on. Hence the recent stronger emphasis on mixed economy.

    I have a sense that a conversation with http://www.churcharmy.org.uk/ms/sc/team/sfc_George.aspx might be helpful for you.

  38. Thank you for your comments Edward, appreciated.
    I agree with btw about the value of mixed economy. Plus, i consider it possible that some pioneers may be in one location for the long haul, depending on context &/or individual.
    thanks also for the link.

  39. […] feel called or inclined to (that’s why they’re pioneers, right!), and that there often aren’t the right sort of roles around for many pioneers when they come out of training. It seems that many Dioceses have something […]

  40. Hi,
    Why not get ordained even if there is no pioneer position immediately available. That way when one opens up, you will have the requisite qualification–ordination. A pioneer community in Oxford which I have been loosely involved maybe.org.uk will soon be advertising for an ordained priest to be the chaplain, starting in Sept. at a decent salary.
    Don’t know–I am a layperson–but it seems that ordination opens a lot of doors for ministry

  41. Thanks Anita. Believe me, I thought quite a lot about it.
    The simple answer is that I don’t at this time feel called to ordination over or above pioneering, and it ‘feels’ that getting ordained is more likely – for me, at this time – to be a hindrance than a help for the latter.
    You can’t get ordained without a title post (curacy), so for me to get ordained would mean 3-4 years of doing a curacy that, as things stand, would have very little or no space, time or resources for me to pursue the pioneering stuff. As I said and hinted in my original post, I felt that this would be detrimental to my health, sanity and faith – and that of my family – at this time.
    I know the maybe community by reputation: I have worked with Sam Richards at CYM, and have mat Ian Adams a number of times. I like the sound of you all, but as things stand would not be available to consider any application to priest/chaplain for another 3-4 years, at least…

  42. See – this at least offers some hope!
    (see this for some better news about Pioneers & Pioneer deployment – still not for curates though…)

  43. I think the lack of pioneer curacies for people who have been selected on the pioneer track is a major flaw in the system and arises from different decision making bodies being involved in different stages of ordination training.

    Curacy is a vital part of the training process and as you say Andy if that part of the training isn’t coherent with your original calling or where you believe you may be called to afterwards it could be extremely draining to all concerned.

    Having said that, I think a grounding in parish life and ministry would provide a useful flexibility later on because callings do develop and change – eg I know OLMs who have ended up as stipendiary ministers – but to do four years completely parish based with no element of pioneering would make the previous years of pioneer training fairly pointless. The curacy is the point at which ideas are put into practice, to go into a post of responsibility as an ordained pioneer minister with no opportunity to try things out in you curacy would leave you quite vulnerable I think.

  44. Thanks again Pam.
    For those of us who have been doing our theology degrees via a “mixed mode” option, the theory is that we have spent those 2-4 years putting theory into practice (and indeed allowing each to inform and shape the other in a wonderful example of orthopraxis…)
    Some have been doing practice for many years prior to formal theoretical engagement.
    Doubtless all of us – even those many years post-curacy – continue to need space and time to reflect on each, and no ordinand I know would dare consider themselves the completed article, but as things stand many of the curacies on offer are failing to be steps forward for the ministers concerned.
    It remains my hope that the structures will catch up with the theory, and that therefore pioneer curacies will exist that allow the inevitable mistakes to be made safely and accountably. They just don’t really exist (with one or two notable exceptions) at the moment.

  45. I think the points you raise do emphasise your original point that continuing on the ordination track may be to the detriment of your calling to pioneering.

    Most of the people on my ordination course were highly experienced in ministry but there was a recognition that ordained ministry is a new step. Some things are transferable but however much ministry experience you have you are still a beginner at being ordained.

    I do agree that leadership doesn’t need to be ordained and I wish that we could see lay leadership as a positive category of leadership not ‘ordination minus’. In many respects I feel my ordained ministry is ‘lay ministry minus’. 😀

  46. “You can’t get ordained without a title post (curacy).” Sorry, didn’t know that. I am sure the story of your call to ministry will continue to be written in new and surprising ways.
    God bless

  47. You’re not the only one who didn’t. Thank you for your kind thoughts.

  48. […] very much dismayed by the way good priests are mistreated and hung out to dry; poor Peter Ould and Ordinandy are classic examples right at this very moment. In the light of such appalling abuse, and […]

  49. […] previously noted, one of the reasons I am not experiencing the same possible ontological change is that I have no […]

  50. I wish I had had your courage a couple of years ago. I felt very uneasy about being ordained and cried most of the way through the retreat. My vision and mission are for the workplace, but the church insisted on curacy in a parish which wouldn’t fit with my job, or my family. Over the past year in particular, as curate in a small church as well as having a job, my marriage and family life have suffered. My curacy is now on hold until I come to see things in the traditional way!!

  51. So sorry to hear that, but suspect you’re not the only one.
    I originally posted this blog as a way of letting friends know I’d made the decision, (& a bit of closure); so it’s been something of a surprise to see and hear of so many people reading it and talking about it!
    My hope is that stories like ours will become less frequent, and that the system catches up with the theory (or at the very least allows space for and supports alternate ministries…)
    I hope and pray that you find such permission and support soon

  52. Hi,

    Our church is helping to purchase an old pub to use as a community center. We are working closely with the local community association. God willing, our church family is going to be able to reach into the community and meet with it (and all its pain and sufferings too) However, it has also reaped lots of rewards and just the process alone has resulted in ‘un- alienating ‘ the church from an area that is largely unchurched. That’s the body of the church as well as the building.

    So, please pray for our venture. It’s a little scary, it’s been a lengthy process, but just one soul won for Christ will have been worth all the time and effort.

  53. BTW,

    I agree with Anita, why not do the curacy if it’s offered. God might use that time to put the right people and contacts in your way for your pioneering ministry. You may also see a real need as you learn to cry through other people’s pain, and then be able to act on it first hand fully knowing that it’s God’s will.

  54. Hi Carol
    Thanks for taking the time to read my post (and the comments!)
    The pub venture sounds good – it is interesting to see how these things can change and challenge the church community, let alone the wider population. I would recommend you spend a little time talking to others who have gone down similar routes – there are many, with mixed results to say the least…. The Fresh Expressions site will no doubt have a number of stories, and Church On The Corner would be worth talking to.
    I hope and pray that it continues to be a journey that blesses both you and those you wish to serve.

    With respect to the curacy, my wife and I both had a very strong sense that the “pioneer” one I was offered was not right to take – it was tempting, for the reasons that Anita has expressed, but ultimately we felt that God was saying no – and the fact that it was not really a pioneer post as I understand they could and should be only helped us stick to that decision.

    Some of my peers have pioneer jobs, although i c an only think of 2 from those I studied with (and one of those now Deacons was not perceived to be a pioneer when she entered training). It may be simply that the kind of pioneer ministry i feel called towards will not be an option for those who are ordained… (I think the jury is still out with respect to if this is a good or bad thing)

  55. The pub purchase has arisen out of need, opportunity, tears and sacrifice. I am not certain what you consider a pioneer ministry to be. To me it suggests new frontiers and going into places where people don’t know God.

    I should imagine churches work best if they have a common project to work at, so a ‘pioneering’ project would be a good thing, even if it’s something like setting up a community market place, teen cafe, bookshop, coffee shop, dinner hall, new community hall etc.. However, this is unlikely to be paid work, because in reality it’s simply a title for building church with new initiative. You can’t do a lot of these things without teams of dedicated volunteers all working towards the same aim. So your calling depends on them answering theirs. For this to happen you need to be amongst them for a considerable amount of time.

    I personally had confirmation at New Wine that we were going the right way when we were asked to introduce ourselves to the people stood at the side of us. There were thousands of people there and the lady at the side of me said that she had gone to New Wine because her church was buying an old pub to run a youth project in. She had just been to pray with a minster for healing for a serious health issue and had prayed for a sign from God that it was what He wanted. We were jumping a little, because I had asked God for a sign too. That was quite a while ago, they were given their keys a couple of months ago and have started to decorate it. 🙂 However, our project still involves lots of people.

    You can never say that it’s not for the ordained, because ultimately what ever you do, you are there to serve others firstly, and unless you walk around with a cross attached to your back and thorns on your head, how will you be that beacon for Christ they seek if you are wrapped up in other things?

    I have been reading loads about emerging churches, Yet people still see their local church as the place they should run to when they need someone, have a funeral, wedding etc… So, there’s a serious miss match problem because the church can only realistically work within the structures they have. They would have to be careful that pioneering churches don’t have a detrimental impact on existing churches.

    Have you considered that as a vicar of a parish you may have more freedom to pioneer and encourage others too.

  56. […] moved to here, […]

  57. […] the curate Peter Ould, where he talks about how he is seeking secular employment, and one from Ordinandy, where he has finished his training but won’t be getting ordained because there are no Pioneer […]

  58. Wow. You’ve been further along the journey than me, even. I feel for you/with you. And Hi. My name’s Mark.
    I went to (what was then called) an ACCM selection conference back in the 80s, after completing a Biblical Studies degree. I proved to be an interesting case in that one of the selectors (the “calling” specialist, with whom the interview ended with me in tears because we just simply didn’t understand each other [but he was in charge]) utterly refused to let them accept me, and another selector (the academic one, with whom I had a great discussion about liturgy and relevance and hermeneutics) refused to let them lose me! So they “provisionally accepted” me by making my selection conditional on my completing an open-university-style training scheme. It was a good course, learnt a lot, met some great people – but the scheme forced me to find a part time job in real life, and after a year I decided to change direction – I could always come back to ordination, but you can’t “come back” to IT.
    Obviously the sense of call never went away; we joined Soul Survivor Watford, and (this was 12 years after the first attempt) I thought I would make another approach. The DDO read my story and told me I should think about joining a “proper church”…. Needless to say, I didn’t go back to see her again 🙂
    Then 3-4 years ago, the “calling monkey” still on my back, I thought: I will really push through this time. I will not drop out. I will push until they refuse me! This time, wonder of wonders, the DDO understood my churchmanship, was able to educate me as to what lay behind the narrowness of the two people (as well as others) who had made my journey with the Anglican church so painful previously – and to challenge my own understanding of ministry and ordination at the same time.
    The problem: I had been working on my own theology of mission/ministry/ecclesiology/pioneering. Which is very, very granular. The DDO said, “I think you could be onto something, now go away and see if it works.” So I did, and over a couple of years it seemed (seems) to be working, but because it’s so granular, it’s very slow, and by its nature it’s not “visible” so I can’t prove it to anyone as such. But eventually I thought: I’ll go back to the DDO and say, OK, let’s see about proceeding, hesitantly.
    Anyway he had retired meanwhile.
    Do I start again? Back to square one??? I’m still not totally convinced. I tend to think, if you’re going to ordain me, you would have to ordain EVERYBODY!!
    Two things have helped me. One was a benedictine monk, a few years ago. I told him, “I think I might be called to be a priest”. He took his thumb and forefinger, and tugged his ear lobe.
    “Sounds like.” He said. Sometimes God is calling us to something, and the nearest thing we can use to describe that call is … someone else’s call. So we feel “I have a call” and then think, what is this call most like? It’s most like what they are doing over there. It’s called “Ordination.” Well maybe, or maybe God’s call to you & me just “sounds like” ordination.
    Actually 3 things have helped me. My vicar/pastor had a prophetic word for me, which I think is for everybody really. He said, “No man (or woman) is going to give you your ministry. Only God can give you your ministry.” In fact I would go further now, I would say any job or label given to us by any other person or any other organisation … that job is not our ministry. Even if the “job/label” is being ordained. Our ministry is all around us, it’s now. That will never change (imo).
    And the third thing (which was originally the second thing): the story of Wulfstan, who, I heard a couple of years ago, was “made Bishop against his will.” I have decided to keep doing what I’m doing, what some people call “on the edge” but for me is simply amongst friends. If the powers that be decide to ordain me “against my will”, then OK I won’t resist. But I don’t think I’m going to actively pursue it. The monkey has gone.
    OK, our journeys are quite different. But it was nice for me to hear that it doesn’t run smoothly for everyone else. So, thanks for sharing. Hopefully it’s good for you to hear of someone else in a similar boat 🙂
    By the way I think my sister might have been a careforce volunteer at your church in Walthamstowe in the past (before your time almost certainly).

  59. Hi Mark. Sounds like you’ve been having fun.
    I hope and pray that you can continue to flourish in some role, a niche that you (with God, naturally) have created on your own if need be…
    I know exactly what you mean by the ordination monkey, and have pretty much the same attitude to it now as you describe.
    What was your sisters name? I’ve been in and around E17 for about 11 years now(!)

  60. Thanks Andy, my sister Mary Christian-Edwards, can’t recall exactly when she was there but probably more like 15 years I would think…………..

  61. Hello Andy
    I was training myself in the mid-90s but, following divorce and the church’s rules about having to live in another parish for x amount of time before I could continue (and could only do so with the new parish’s support), I stopped the training and never went back. I did learn a lot, but it would have been impossible in the newer parish where I found myself since it wasn’t keen on female ministry in any form whatsoever apart from making tea. And as you know, for a variety of reasons I became unchurched for a number of years and it was the unusual form which brought me back. Now I’m with a more traditional church in a new town, after several years ‘unattached’, and very happy. A dear clergy friend said to me that perhaps the absence was God asking me to stop doing and start thinking for a bit (I’d always been very involved). That made a lot of sense, because when one is rushing about doing all sorts of things, it’s easy to set the ‘thinking about God and what He wants’ to one side.
    A hard decision for you, but you’ve kept your integrity and the path will become clear – in God’s time, not our own, in my experience!

  62. Your honest post is much appreciated, Andy. That there have been fresh comments in this thread for more than a year now suggests you struck a chord with what you shared. We have a good deal in common – Fresh Expressions, community, etc. I think too, that we share an ambivalent attitude to the institutional ‘scaffolding’ of church. I’m a Mennonite so don’t quite have the same clerical context. Our church has no ordained leadership. We’re working on ‘Walking Church’ (http://www.mennoworld.org/2012/4/16/london-congregation-takes-worship-outside/). Still, I suspect we are both facing similar challenges in holding on to vocational integrity whilst paying the bills and keeping a roof over our heads.

    As I live in Chingford, I’m guessing that’s not far at all. Do get in touch and let’s have a coffee sometime. Shalom, Phil

  63. […] working with and for organised structures – even getting quite close to becoming a vicar (see here if you don’t know that bit […]

  64. […] future). – I am still being hit with ripples from my decision not to get ordained last summer (see here if you don't know about that), and a number of questions I (& others) have about what ministry […]


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