Posted by: Postordinandy | June 27, 2011

On (mostly) not having second thoughts

This past weekend has been the first of a couple that will see most of my college peers leave the shallow waters and relative safety of training towards ordination and “cross over” to the other side. Next weekend sees almost everyone I started training with three years ago complete a pre-ordination retreat, enter a cathedral as a member of the laity, and leave as a member of the clergy.

In a process that I barely understand, and have trouble explaining to others, they will firstly be ordained Deacons (and will remain so for around a year), and then be ‘Priested’. Both of these are roles which they will embody while they serve their ‘title post’ or curacy.

Their lives will never be the same again. They will be ontologically changed – once ordained you can never go back – in the same way that an individual who becomes a parent discovers their whole identity, experience and outlook on life has been radically and permanently changed in a way that only others who have experienced the same shift can either understand or explain. They will cease to be my peers in a significant way, although I hope they remain my friends.

As previously noted, one of the reasons I am not experiencing the same possible ontological change is that I have no curacy to go to, but the main one is the growing realisation i have come to that this does not feel the right fit for me. I believe I have a vocation, a calling. I suspect that this calling is in some form of Christian leadership. I am 99.95% certain that I made the right decision not to get ordained…

But these next few weeks will be tough for me. As those I walked and studied with these past 3 years go and grow into new lives and places of work, I remain unemployed with no clear sense of what the next stage is likely to be.

I wish all of you who are crossing over the very best. I hope you receive a huge sense of vocational fulfilment, confirmation from God and His people that this is the right thing for you. I hope and pray that you will have confidence in He who sends you on this journey, even when the steps seem awkward, dangerous or just plain silly. Please pray for me that I am able to remain true to my own call, even as I continue to wrestle with how, where and what that might look like.

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Responses

  1. Andy,

    This a real reflection on how the process can be so kind to some and unkind to others. I actually find it shameful that the Church having allowed you to go through three years of training could not, or, would not find you a suitable curacy.

    The need out there is for pioneering ministry alongside the more traditional parish ministry. I just wonder if the so called fresh xpressions and all of that it involves is a smokescreen to allow the system to just sail on doing what it does, losing people and forgetting that it’s not about existing church, but reaching the unchurched.

    I’m still in the process, with a possibility of a diocesan panel in September and BAP later (tbc). It has taken two years to get to this stage, and at coming up to 62, I’m not sure where it will yet go.

    The options are limited. Self-supporting ministry, somewhere in my deanery, if they can find a vicar willing to take on an SSM curate. My Vicar has said he would, he is a training incumbent, but it’s likely that he will have moved on before I would finish training. And, with training taking me out of the parish, who knows what the new incumbent would think.

    One way or another, your journey will continue and I hope and pray that the Church comes to realise just what sacrifices you have made and comes up with a suitable role which would allow you to fulfill your vocation.

  2. Thank you.
    I was offered one curacy, pretty late in the day. The talk was that it would be a pioneer post, but there was nothing specific for me to do in that respect, and no real sense that the church in question wanted or needed a pioneer to help them put a vision into 3D – so that would have meant 3.5 years to locate, resource, plant and grow some form of pioneer venture to the stage that it would be sustainable when we would be required to leave.
    I’m pretty sure that a good number of pioneers (ordained or not) will need to self sustain all or a significant % of their economic and other needs. Planning a post on that at some point…

  3. Hi Andy.

    Like you, I’m a bit of a corner case. I trained full-time (not on a pioneer track, I wasn’t really aware of the category), accepted a post… and then for a whole bunch of reasons I jumped ship. Unlike you, while I thought at the time that probably meant giving up on ordination, I was ordained deacon and went into a SSM curacy in 2009.

    In a few days I’ll be ordained priest – 12 months after almost all of my peers, as that first year was a mad scramble. Two years ago was painful, seeing most of those I trained with going in the direction we all expected. Last year was agony. I can certainly feel something of what you’re feeling, and I recognise the tension that comes when there’s a loss of alignment between what the church discerns as God’s call on your life, what you discern as God’s call on your life, and what evidence you and others can find of God’s actual call on your life.

    Ministry seems to me a process of discovery – a journey far more than a status, role or destination. My primary sphere barely intersects parish life geographically, demographically or any other way. To the extent that that model doesn’t fit in to established categories, it’s hardly surprising that I’ve had a few uncomfortable times along the way, and that you have and will, as trembling you take your first steps onto an unknown path.

    All the best
    Jeremy

  4. Thanks Jeremy, appreciated.
    I remain unsure as to whether my future ministry lies within the CofE or not (I would like it to, but have some reservations about how the institution can appropriately accommodate one such as I), let alone ordained (although I have a nagging feeling it might at some point.
    We shall see.
    Likewise all the bast in your own journeys.

  5. I’m not sure whether there’s any real meaning (certainly in a pioneer context) to ministry ‘in’ the CofE. If I’ve learned one thing (and some people would question that) this past two years, it’s that it’s important to know who is there to support you, and what form that’s going to take.

    I enjoyed one of the recent Fresh Expressions podcasts, where it was said (and I’m almost certainly paraphrasing badly) that not fitting in is the primary mark of pioneer ministry. So in that sense, your present experience validates that possibility, ordained or not!

    One last point, on timing. I had the clearest possible call to ministry nearly 20 years before I (fully) answered it. I don’t doubt that whatever choices we make, God uses them to his glory. You’ve been taught, formed, knocked into shape, knocked out of shape… Who knows what you’ll be, where or for whom? (OK, there is an answer to that question, in best Sunday School fashion 🙂 )

  6. […] moved to here, […]

  7. Change of tack from previous commentors: I’m interested in your statement “they will be ontologically changed”. Please forgive the ignorance (and potential insensitivity given your current position…) but, when you get a moment, I’d be grateful if you could say more about this, please? I can completely relate to the analogy to parenthood, but I’d like to know more about this ontological change – what is your basis for believing it happens? what difference does it make? how? and why? and how does that relate to ‘the priesthood of all believers’?

  8. Hi Jane, a tack change is always welcome 😉
    There is a school of thought which argues for an ontological change – and it generates discussion among those who subscribe to it that I have heard at least one mild argument over whether it takes place as an ordinand becomes a deacon (the 1st year post-study for most) or once they move past this stage – for most Anglican priests, the process is deacon for a year (you get to wear a lovely sash!) and then ‘priesting’ after that. It doesn’t help potential confusion that the deaconing is referred to as ‘ordination’, since many people think of ordination and priesting as the same thing.
    The idea, as I understand it, is that when a minister is ‘ontologically changed’ they cease to be the person they were previously – hence the parenting analogy. Again, opinions vary wildly as to how this change occurs, how it is measured (and how long it lasts).
    It may not entirely surprise you that I don’t really see it myself – not least of all because I think that God kind of likes everyone & has ministries of significance for each one of us…

  9. Now there’s both a reassurance and a disappointment !!! Disappointment because I can’t really get my head around it, and it looked for a brief moment like you’d got it sussed….. which is, at the same time, of course, reassuring, if you really were a paid up subscriber, I think I would have been quite disappointed. OK, head hurts now – going to pub.


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