A Journey of Discovery
Every Christian is called to serve God. How best to do that is not always obvious and will normally involve a period of wrestling with God as well as talking to others. Some are drawn to using their communication skills to become a Reader; others take a lead in caring and become Pastoral Workers. Most never feel called to train for any form of licensed ministry but still use their many and various gifts for God in his church and world. A few people serving in any of these ways begin to wonder if God might be calling them to take on some responsibility for the church’s life and growth. Such a thought is usually shocking and accompanied by feelings of inadequacy. Around this time it might well be that someone significant asks them if they’ve ever thought of ordination. Or perhaps, after several months of wrestling they go to their incumbent to talk it over. Whatever the detail, the nagging question has emerged – Should I be ordained?
What sort of people get ordained?
It has been said that the only three things the ordained should be concerned with are the glory of God, the pain of the world and the renewal of the church. This is a somewhat daunting job description and increases the feelings of inadequacy. But what will it take to be this kind of person? Such people are mature Christians who have discovered a measure of healing for themselves. How else can we be concerned for the glory of God and not just self-concerned? How else can we be open to the pain of others and not weighed down by it? Such people’s faith in God and love for others will be visible in how they live their lives. They will be recognised in church or at work as people of integrity who can be trusted. Those who are concerned for the renewal of the church are easily recognised. They will be involved in church; usually, but not always, in some leadership capacity. They will be people who have a passion and vision for what the church should be and have the teaching gifts and people skills to help it happen.
How will I know if this is God’s calling for me?
God can only guide a moving object! In other words you have to begin by talking to others to ask for their opinion. One of the most important will be your vicar or equivalent. Hopefully, they will have seen you at work and already have thoughts about your ministry. After this, it may be that you feel encouraged enough to talk to the Diocesan Director of Ordinands (DDO). Alternatively that might feel premature and one way of thinking further is to contact a vocations adviser for a chat. (See below for a link to the list.) Once you begin talking to the DDO you will look in more depth at what ordination means and what it requires. If the conversation continues you would put your case to a Diocesan Panel of three people who then write a report on you. If it seems appropriate you then go to a national Bishops’ Advisory Panel (BAP). Over forty eight hours you give a presentation, lead a discussion and have three interviews. If the BAP report is positive you then receive a recommendation to train for ordination.
What does training involve?
Those training for stipendiary ordained ministry normally spend two years at one of the eleven theological colleges around the country. This is extended to three years for those under thirty-two. People seeking non-stipendiary ministry normally train on the local Regional Training Partnership (RTP). Older, experienced and suitably qualified candidates might do it in a shorter time. A typical year’s time commitment includes one night a week, six weekends and an eight day summer school. Once ordained, everyone’s training continues for a further three years, delivered by Chester Diocese. This involves written work and attendance at regular meetings. The cost of all ordination training is met by the national church although the diocese normally gives a maintenance grant for those training residentially.
Ordained to do what?
Everyone ordained spends a year as a deacon before they are priested. Everyone ordained is licensed to a so-called Title Parish where they serve on most Sundays. Most clergy have the parish as their main focus for ministry; however there are those who feel that their main focus of ministry should be outside of the parish. This could be in a hospital, school or prison chaplaincy or in the normal place of work where they continue after ordination. Wherever they work, priests have a common passion to glorify God, engage with the pain of the world and help the church to grow.
|‘The first call is to be a human being, the second to be a Christian and then third to be a priest. My own experience was that the key to the first was the second and the best way to be the second was the third. But the third step is an exception.’ Bishop John Pritchard in The Life and Work of a Priest (SPCK)|
How can I find out more?
- Try some of the links below.
- Talk to your incumbent.
- Talk to a vocations adviser (see link below).
- Come to one of our four-monthly Compass meetings
If you still have questions, then do not hesitate to contact
Our Diocesan Director of Ordinands (DDO) Revd Ray Samuels
The DDO Office, Bishop’s House, Abbey Square Chester CH1 2JD
Tel: 01244 346945 Email: Revd Ray Samuels
The Assistant DDO Revd Magdalen Smith who is Associate Priest at Wilmslow
Contact details: The Rectory, 15 Parkway, Wilmslow SK9 1LS
Tel: 01625 524717 Email: Revd Magdalen Smith
Need an informal chat about how best to serve? Why not contact one of our Vocations Advisers? These are experienced people spread across the diocese who are able to talk through how you can best serve God.