Going to BAP //
So you may remember from Chapter 2 that BAP (Bishop’sAdvisory Panel) is the bit where Ministry Division get involved. It’s not a test per se, it’s really just getting a second opinion, a way of the advisors making sure that what has been observed about you during the process fits with what they see of you at BAP. My DDO told me that although in my diocese they only send people to BAP they are sure will ‘get through’, the law of averages says that some won’t. And of course different dioceses have a different way of doing things, I met someone on my BAP who had only seen her DDO once and had been sent over. Of course I don’t know if she got a yes or not.
So, with that in mind, personally I think the best thing you can do at BAP is to be yourself. If you are preparing for BAP you may have heard this said many times, but it really is the best piece of advice, after all, they need to see if you are the same person who has been written about in all their reports. So unless you’ve been pretending all the way through DP then being yourself really is the best thing you can do.
Of course the most likely thing is that you will be ridiculously nervous. No matter how well prepared you are and how much preparation you have done, BAP does tend to be seen as the ‘ta-daaaa’ at the end of the process and ultimately whatever the advisors report will determine your future. That said, it is called a ‘recommendation’ and the final decision is with your Bishop (so be nice to him or her along the way!).
So nerves. Just remember that everyone will be in the same boat and one of the nicest things is that you will be with a group of people and you are not in competition with each other. My BAP was at Shallowford, which meant a rather long trek across the country, but a lovely rural venue. When I arrived there were a few candidates already there and we sat and chatted over a cuppa in the sunshine. Most candidates suggest arriving early at BAP to give yourself time to breathe rather than panicking about timing. I’m slightly obsessed about time so I always arrive early though! For some venues there are added bonuses, if you see them that way, for example, at Ely BAP candidates are allowed into the cathedral for free so if you arrive early you can have a bit of quiet time in there first.
One thing to remember is that each person’s experience of BAP will differ vastly. I’ve included several blog posts at the end of this chapter of others experiences, do have a read as they give good first hand experience and some advice on different venues too, but remember that yours might well be different.
Preparing for BAP //
Before you go, you will be given a whole heap more forms to fill in – I had an email arrive from my DDO with 13 attachments in – I kid you not – 13??!! There is also a guide called ‘Going to BAP’ available online which gives you masses of info about what is expected of you. Do read it, it’s thorough and very helpful.
In the week before I went I seemed to veer from excitement, to panic, to last minute cramming, to complete disdain, and back to panic. Which seems to be common amongst BAP attendees, after all it’s the end of a very long road. It’s helpful to read through any notes you have made in the process, re-read key books, and make sure you have answers prepared to some obvious questions – why do you want to be a Priest? what is your understanding of being a Priest? and so on. I took a folder with me with some basics in and just re-read it on the first evening after I had arrived. To be honest I don’t think I took anything in but it made me feel happier knowing it was there if I needed it (although the red wine may have had something to do with that…).
Above all, do remember that you are there because of God. He has called you and you have followed his calling. So just trust in Him, allow Him in, embrace Him with you in this and it will be more peaceful!
I think the best thing I can do in this chapter is give a list of advice, gathered from the experience of many candidates. So below is a list of some of the most important things people said.
- Don’t listen to horror stories. People will be delighted to share their BAP experience with you before you go, but be firm about not hearing the bad stuff. It really doesn’t help and just makes you anxious. Remember every venue and every advisor is different, and so are you. Just because someone was made to cry once in 1994 or your Vicar’s best mate’s auntie couldn’t answer a key question, doesn’t mean it will happen to you. I think one the strangest things I heard was one candidate being asked: ‘3 ducks in a row, which one are you?’. Make of that what you will!
- Check out your venue. Each has its own foibles. At Shallowford take earplugs – trains run through the night and if you are unlucky enough to be in the room 15 ft from the line you will appreciate them more than you know! At Ely, curtains are thin so an eye mask would be good.
- Take paracetamol with you. It is an intense process and I wasn’t the only one with a stonking headache by lunch on day 2.
- Take some comforts with you – chocolate and red wine in my case, gin, DVDs, good book or newspaper for others. Not only will you probably need them at some point, it helps to take your mind off things
- Take time out. Everyone says it but make sure you do it. An hour to chill out, read a book, go for a walk can make all the difference!
- Naps – as above – don’t feel bad about having a nap, several people did at my BAP and if you need one don’t feel guilty. There will be time during the day to yourself, so use it as you need. I found I didn’t sleep at all the first night – excitement or nerves I don’t know but the nap was a lifesaver!
- Get to know people on the first afternoon/eve. I found it really helped when doing presentations and discussions the following day, we were all willing each other on and of course had a better idea where people were coming from. In addition I definitely made a few friends, although you are usually discouraged from staying in touch with people just in case some of you don’t get through. I ended up getting the train back with several candidates, having initially planned to veg and rest, it was actually really nice to debrief with people who had been through the same. Personally I think this helped when I got home too as I didn’t then off load totally onto my poor husband!
- The Bar – Most venues have a bar on site or a pub nearby. It’s up to you whether you go and there’s usually a 50/50 split. I went the first night as I wanted to chat to people and I knew I’d be too tired the next. If going off site, sound out people and go somewhere together so you can support each other.
- Small talk – you will do a lot of chatting, be it with other candidates or at supper where you are actively encouraged to sit with different people or advisors at each meal. So brush up on your conversation starters!
- Morning/Evening Prayer happens each day and you will be told it’s the only thing that isn’t compulsory. But that said I think it would probably be foolish not to go at all! Most people I spoke to went to most prayer times and skipped one or two if need be. I missed one as I was just too tired and I have to say didn’t feel remotely guilty. Also it can feel like going through the motions, but in one morning prayer I had an amazing experience of God pouring out his spirit on everyone present and was quite astounded! And I’m not the only one to really encounter God during their BAP – it is still a time of meeting with God, remember that.
- Presentation: Take a timer for your presentation – they will time it to the second but useful to know for yourself how long you have left as they will stop you if you go over. Pen & pencil useful too for discussions. Do not interrupt anyone as they will pick up on this but make sure you engage in conversations. This can be tough as you all want to get a word in but do your best. If facilitating the discussion make sure quieter people are included, showing you can chair a good discussion.
- Pastoral exercise – I was told by my DDO ‘begin and end with grace and put what you like in the middle’ however I used this advice and they pulled me up for being too judgemental. It’s a really tough one to gauge and pretty unnatural as you are writing a letter when in normal circumstance you’d call or visit. Just use your best instincts is my advice!
- Enjoy it! I’m naturally a people-person which helped, but do try and enjoy the experience if you can. Go with the attitude that you will and it will be easier.
- Rest afterwards – Everyone I spoke to found the whole thing exhausting. Make sure you have the day off afterwards or have someone to look after your kids, or whatever you need. You will need that day, I really think it’s an essential and worth taking a day off work for. One person even described it as like having jet lag and another slept for a whole day after!
- Debrief – You will probably have a chance to debrief with your DDO but it’s a good idea to arrange in advance to see someone within the first few days, spiritual director, incumbent or close friend for example. It will really help you to process it all, (as well as saving your partner if you have one) from the endless thoughts you will have!) especially as you will have to wait possibly weeks, for a result. And we’ll come on to that in the next chapter.
What now? //
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