I went to the Bishops Assessment Panel of the Church of England in May. The outcome was that I was NOT recommended for Training for Ordained Ministry. However, the panel discerned a strong vocation to some form of Lay Ministry and recommended that I continue to explore the possilibilities within my Dioceses.
Off course, I was hugely disappointed that I had been unable to persuade the assessors by my input during the panel that my call was to ordained ministry. The follow up report is short, but clear and outlines the reasons for that failure, but also the strengths and gifts that they discern within you, which validate your faith, growth as a Christian and what more you may offer to the church in areas, other than ordained ministry.
It took a couple of days for the reality of the situation to sink in. Despite hearing the outcome orally, you still hope against hope that it’s a mistake and that someone will change it. But the written report once given to you, shatters that delusion and you now experience the deflation of ego and self awareness that you believed you possess and brings it home that the decison is both correct and final. A letter from the bishop confirming this is the final nail in the coffin of that slim, hope. I don’t blame anyone for this result. In the end, I was given a unique opportunity to show that there was a valid and distinctive call to ordained ministry. My performance at the panel did not disclose that, but did give other insights which are enabling for the future. God’s will is still to be discerned.
Getting over it:
It’s really important that you have a support mechanism in place to help you to cope with the disappointment. In my own case, I had my spouse, who was pragmatic, but loving and was able to help me see that God’s purpose and will, might just have been to test my faith in this way. I have my Vicar, our Curate, our parishioners, my Spiritual Director and the DDO, all of whom have been hugely supportive and consoling. I have also received much valued support from the i-church community, who have shared my journey from the outset. The underlying support is that of personal prayer and pleading with God to allow you some peace, to refill the well of grace that seemed to empty when you heard the decision, to fill that emptiness with his love and presence and to restore your confidence that the call is real, genuine and not just an ego trip.
Thankfully that has been granted. I am now at peace with the process and within myself. I am very much aware that something that I have been part off for over three years is ended. The loss is real, it’s a form of grief, it will continue to strike back randomly and I might experience further feelings of anger and disappointment, might seek to attribute blame to others. Being aware of this is important and to turn to that support network of prayer and to share with others and to just ‘be’ for a period until while I maynot forget it, it will be part of me, part of that formation of character and growth, which is essential to allow any new path to be discerned.
In my case, I can see that a NOT isn’t a NO. There is still a call alive and burning within me. It’s going to take some time and space, along with others, to seek to discern where such gifts as I might have, might be used by the Church in another form of ministry. Wise words from all are “not to rush into anything, take time out to continue to see where God might be taking you” and “rushing into anything would be unwise. It would always seem second best to ordained ministry”. This and other wise counselling has given me a clarity of vision to accept the decision, to be at peace with myself and with God and to lay the disappointment at the foot of the cross and to move on. As God shuts one door, another, which was wide open all of the time beckons.