BAP, The Bish and having doubts…

So I have a date for BAP, and plenty to do to prepare in advance. An email has already arrived with 13 attachments and that’s not to mention the paperwork that came in the post… next weeks task I think..

Anyway I got to talk to the DDO this week who gave me some helpful feeedback from the Bishop. mostly good but some constructive criticism too. None of it surprising but the same old things about not spending time in the traditional church. So what follows is rather a rant and probably something I need to get out of my system, (apologies now!)

Just to lay it out, I was brought up in a traditional anglican church, I worshipped in traditional agnlican churches for 30 odd years. Not only that but I have spent time involved in church youth groups, and  serving on a PCC.  I have helped organise events, socials and been involved in admin. All within more traditional churches. I am not a novice in the more traditional church. However because I have spent the last 2 years in a fresh expression church (part of the CofE I would like to add) that seems to be a problem.

My time with the Bishop was interesting and enjoyable, but a definite grilling (which was expected!). I felt I had to fight my corner rather, on some of the more contemporary areas of my church life (again somewhat expected), and I had the opportunity towards the end to ask about opportunities for pioneering ministry (for the benefit of the lovely David at The Vernacular Vicar I mean “Pioneering” in quotes, as in the CofE model for doing something ‘a bit different’ and not pioneering in the sense that all ministers are pioneers, (which they are.. 😉 )
I thought this was productive and was inspired by some of his responses. However he still pointed out that whilst studying (assuming I get through, this will be the part time study from home option) I will not be able to stay within my own church, but will need to go to another church in order to get opportunities to train (fair enough but not enough reason to permanently move my family to another church) and that I need to be more versed in the traditional bearing in mind I am going into Anglican minsitry. Well, you may think that is fair enough but all the way along this process I have talked about being part of a more contemporay church and that I am  interested in new forms of church. There is a route to train as a pioneer minister, but for various reasons I didn’t take this. Most people I spoke to about it said it was very limiting and that there were few jobs at the end of it for ‘pioneer ministers’ which means that you are then looking for a more contemporary role along with everyone else who has trained, but you are already one step behind them because you haven’t done the more general training… see my dilmemna? However having not taken this route it is then assumed that you are wanting to go into the more general/traditional priestly role. And at every turn I have had to get experience or read up on the areas I am lacking in. Fair enough, that isn’t my problem. My problem is that then they try to make you fit into their square shaped hole, when you are actually star shaped. Not an easy fit. And I am rebelling against it! All my star points are acting like little legs, kicking back against the square… (ok getting a bit weird here, but you get my point.) So… I didn’t take the pioneer route – my own decision, but I could say I was following their advice and so now they aren’t able to hear anything I say outside of their little box. Responses like these are not uncommon:, ‘yes well thats all fine, but you will be in a  more traditional church’ or ‘yes, thats fine, but your church is not like any other’… that kind of thing. And for the record it is like some others and there should be more of them. grrrr…

So, I am stuck. Do I just go ahead and continue to fight my corner, or do I seriously go back and redo all of this under the pioneer banner? I know I am supposed to be in the CofE, of that I am sure, but I refuse to be forced into their mould when clearly that is not what God is wanting me to do…

I would love to hear from people who have been through this, expecially women, and especially those who have gone down the pioneer route… anyone got any contacts I can speak to?

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  • Reply
    Nancy Wallace
    February 23, 2012 at 5:21 pm

    I do understand what you mean about not wanting to be forced into a mould. But if you are sure you should be in the C. of E. why refer to "their mould". When I think of all the clergy I know, there is such a huge variety of ways of being and doing, I don't recognize any one mould they've all been squeezed into. How exiting to have a BAP date, but yes the paperwork can be a pain. You have presumably thought carefully about the pioneer minister route, got all the information and after advice have rejected it. I think one problem is that the training and deployment of pioneer ministers is still in relatively early stages of development, so the fear of the unknown kicks in. The traditional route doesn't preclude doing pioneering things. In the end it's a matter of how best the church can use the gifts, skills and personality you have.

  • Reply
    February 23, 2012 at 7:05 pm

    Hi Nancy
    thanks. I think I refer to their mould because it seems that the people who I have met with during the process all seem to have the same very specific view of what CofE ministry is, although I think largely that is due to this diocese. I know there is variation in what I could do, and it depends a lot on the chuch I end up in, but I think thats my issue, at the moment it feels like 'they' are holding all the strings very tightly and not willing to loosenm them a bit. I also think that the process is a bit like an hour glass, in that you get squeezed in and then can open up again once you come out the other side, and once you're in it its easier to then be freer in what you want to or are able to do.
    The thing is I feel like I am not being true to what I feel God is asking me to do. I do not want to continue this and then regret it, I am at a point where I could still go back and look at pioneering ministry before making a final decisions. In a few months I wont be able to do that. I suppose that in reality I can't see myself in a traditional set up, at all. I can't imagine spending 3 or 4 years or curacy learing the traditional ropes. I see myself being in a more contemporary church full stop, which really points more to the pioneering route.
    I don't know, perhaps it is because it is all coming to a head that I am anxious about it all!n who knows I may flunk BAP and then I dont have to worry!!

  • Reply
    February 23, 2012 at 11:29 pm

    Red, all the time I was going through the discernment process, more than 25 years ago now, it was always stressed to me that there were 3 partners in the process, me as the candidate, God who was calling me and the church as the body within which that calling was to be worked out and confirmed.

    I'm with Nancy in being a bit concerned about the language you are using of 'they' and 'mould' and in my case, even 'rebelling'. One of the things you will have to do if you are selected and go through training to the point of ordination as a deacon is to promise (in the words of the ordinal)

    Bishop: Will you accept the discipline of this Church and give due respect to those in authority?

    Ordinands: By the help of God, I will.

    Then as a priest:

    Bishop: Will you accept and minister the discipline of this Church, and respect authority duly exercised within it?

    Ordinands By the help of God, I will.

    I think you need to ask yourself very seriously if you will be able to make those promises, which do, as I see it, limit your freedom to be and do exactly what you want.

    I'm not saying that your wish to minister in a contemporary setting is wrong, far from it, but ordination is to the ministry of the whole church, not just one bit of it.

  • Reply
    February 24, 2012 at 10:35 am

    thanks Perpetua
    I think that is exactly my problem, I am not sure that I can make those promises (not honestly anyway!!) and it has been worrying me for a while. some say, well just do it anyway (cross your fingers kind of thing!) but that seems rather dishonest to me…
    more prayer required I think 🙂

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