You are hereJuly 2010
All things being equal, by the time you read this our Benefice will have a second Priest. In accordance with tradition received from Biblical times, Sally will have had Episcopal hands laid upon her and the prayer intoned “send down your Holy Spirit for the Office and work of a Priest”. But how do people ever come to this point? Does God still write upon walls, as he did in the book of Daniel? And how do we know that we are being called by God?
Of course a great deal comes from inner conviction – and all those who go through the Church’s selection process have to account for the faith that is in them. But a great many of us will speak of those who helped us on the way: people who saw the potential for God to work through us: people who encouraged us when the obstacles seemed too daunting along the way
Then of course there are the Diocesan and National processes. Each Diocese has a “DDO” – Diocesan Director of Ordinands – who has selection criteria and advisors of their own to help discern the will of the Spirit. Each Candidate is bound to have interviews with Area and Diocesan Bishops along the way. And then finally is a BAP – not a bread roll, but a Bishops Advisory Panel, where through prayer, references, interviews and other processes a Candidate will finally be examined as to whether or not the Church ought to Ordain to the three-fold ministry
Of course the process will make mistakes:- some are Ordained who ought not to be, some are not who ought to be – we are human after all. But the part that FAITH plays is important: all those along the way will be praying for the discernment of the Holy Spirit – and the job is not easy.
But not all the Church does things in this way. In some places there is still a long tradition of doing things the opposite way around: when the Priest leaves for any reason, the local Church looks around its members and chooses a Candidate from its midst and takes them to the local Bishop for training and Ordination! You have heard of the tradition of dragging an MP to the Speaker’s Chair in Parliament – this has overtones of the same thing!
The Church of England has a process that is not dissimilar in some ways – I refer to LOCAL MINISTRY. Here we consider our own members and the congregations are called to discern whether or not there people called to be: Readers, Priests, Prayer Guides, Pastoral Assistants or even Local Evangelists. This is not an election – no-one asks if someone wants to train (although they do eventually have the chance to decline, of course!) But it is a genuine attempt to discern by faith what God has called our people to be – and it is just as valid a Ministry as those like Sally who accept Ordination as a Stipendiary Priest. Both our PCCs have been discussing the needs of our Parishes in the future – and our congregations will be asked to think about who we have among us who could stand as Ministers of God
So please pray – for Sally, yes, as newly Ordained – but also for the Holy Spirit to guide us as we consider these things. The simple truth is that we are all called into the Body of Christ, the Church – and we simply seek to see how we can serve him best