Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.
John 14:27 (NRSV)
Post BAP and beyond //
Coming away from BAP I initially felt such a sense of relief, it just felt like this date had been hanging over me for so long and finally it was gone. I knew it would be around 10 days before I heard from the Bishop (reports from BAP advisors are put together, then sent to Min Div before going back to your Bishop, who then contacts you direct or the DDO does) and I found I was actually able to relish that time. It was the first time for months where nothing was expected of me in the process. I don’t think I appreciated beforehand how much it had been weighing on me, until it was done.
I do think going into it all with the right attitude helps, as I came away from BAP feeling that I was myself and I did all I could. There was nothing I could have read or studied that would have changed my answers, I had learned all I needed to, read all I could and was true to myself. So I think I felt, ‘if I don’t get through I won’t feel I wish I had said this or that…’
However we all process things differently and of course the opposite can happen, you can question what you said, or forgot to say, worry about the answers you gave, or what the advisors thought of you or whether missing evening prayer will count against you (it won’t). At the end of the day, no amount of encouraging words will help that, and it might be that you are anxious until the day you hear the outcome. That is why it is so important to debrief with someone. In my diocese we were all required to see the DDO within a week or so, and go over everything, which was very useful. If you can’t see your DDO, or maybe as well as, do see your Spiritual Director or Incumbent who can help you process any anxieties or feelings. And as always, pray and ask others to pray too. Stressing for weeks while you wait to hear the result isn’t fun, so ask for God to fill you with his peace (John 14:27).
The outcome //
Now then, there are three possible outcomes from BAP: Recommended for training; Recommended with conditions; or Not recommended. Let’s start with the ‘Not’ first.
Look, no one likes to consider this but as I’ve already noted, even if your diocese only sends people to BAP who are dead-certs, the chances are that some will not get through. Please do think about this in advance. I have two friends who have not been recommended, one who was at my BAP as well and I have seen them both, in different ways, really struggle with this. The thing is, even if you go into it fully aware of what could happen, or feeling really chilled out and trusting God in it all, if you don’t get recommended it will feel like a kick in the teeth. After all this process requires you to pretty much bare your soul so someone saying ‘no’ is going to be tough. It will feel personal. It won’t make sense. It can threaten your faith, I mean just imagine the questions you might ask yourself:
Did I not hear from God?
Am I wrong? What if I just don’t hear from God?
What does God want me to do now?
Have I wasted the last (insert figure here) years?
Is God actually there?
I would like to say that the church will pick you up and help you move on, but sadly in all my research I haven’t found one person who has found this to be the case. The DDO handbook does highlight the need to support people in this circumstance but for whatever reason it doesn’t seem to happen all that well. The handbook also notes the importance of your support structure and the people around you who can help. So, please please, please, even if your diocese doesn’t appoint someone to help you, please seek help – through your spiritual director, or someone impartial who can help you take stock of your feelings. I cannot stress this enough: get help! I have seen, even just watching from afar, how painful this is and how ones faith can be tested in this. So do not bear it alone. Feelings of anger, frustration, sadness, not understanding, questioning faith or one’s relationship with God, inadequacy and much more, are totally normal and you should not be expected to deal with this by yourself.
And do remember that whilst you might be angry with God, He isn’t angry with you. One of my favourite scriptures right now, which has stood with me in a time of trial is from Psalm 91:4…
Even if you can’t bring yourself to talk to Him, try and imagine yourself just sheltering, under His wings. I love this quote from Pope Francis:
Although the life of a person is in a land full of thorns and weeds, there is always a space in which the good seed can grow. You have to trust God.
If you feel you are surrounded by thorns and weeds, just trust God in whatever way you can, there is still a seed there…
One of the best things I’ve read on this is the CPAS sheet on not being recommended, which likens the pain to grief and covers a whole load of things you may find yourself feeling. There is also a Grove Booklet ‘When the Church Says no’ which is not just about discernment, it looks at church roles in general, but does refer to BAP. This, like all Grove booklets is a brief overview, a short guide, and whilst it won’t drag you from a pit of misery it might just give you some starting points, some areas to think about or a scripture to focus on.
In addition to how you feel, do think about the effect on your partner or family, friends and support network, who may well have similar feelings to you. They also need to work through this and you are not the right person to do this with them as you need to work through your own feelings first. But be understanding that those close to you will need to work through those feelings too.
Of course you may still want to pursue the same path and you can discuss this with your DDO. In most cases you are required to wait, reconsider, discern some more and then come back before attending another BAP, you also cannot attend another BAP for 2 years.
Recommended with conditions
You can be recommended for training but with some provisos, for example you need to get experience here, or get a better understanding of ‘X’. Usually any conditions are looked at during your training. However if you have any queries do look at them straight away, the last thing you need is to get to the end of training and find what you thought was going to happen, isn’t (as has happened to someone I know).
You got a yes, fantastic, but don’t think you can relax, you haven’t even begun!
Again, even with a ‘yes’ do take time to debrief and think everything through. I actually took a year ‘out’ before training, as for me the process had been quite quick and I don’t think I was prepared for going to college just yet. Taking a break is acceptable but you do need it agreed by your Bishop and have to have a good reason. Not that I think everyone should do this it was right for me, but do take some time to think things through, it is not unfeasible that you could go to BAP in May, get recommended and then be starting college in September. Equally you could have the opposite, you could have a BAP early in the academic year and then have to wait months to go to college. One candidate felt slightly lost as she had almost a year from BAP to starting college with little DDO contact. So do just prepare yourself for different scenarios.
For me, getting a ‘yes’ was huge. As I’d always approached the process with an air of ‘well it’s in your hands God’ it was only when I was recommended that I felt it had been right all along. The emotions and relief were huge and also surprising! Be prepared for all kinds of emotions and feelings to come up, even when you got a ‘yes’! As above, give yourself time to process it all, as you will very quickly be forced into questions of college, finances and so on.
The BAP report
Whatever happens you will be sent a copy of your BAP report, which will follow you for a few years whatever the outcome. You, your Bishop and DDO will all be sent a copy. If you didn’t get recommended but want to still pursue this path you will be required to address any issues raised in the report.
If you are going on to study then your college will get a copy as well. Anything that is flagged up (and things will probably be flagged up even if you are recommended) you will need to address during training. It might be that you lack experience in one area or did less well in one of the BAP tasks, and you will be expected to look at this before you embark on a curacy.
Whatever your result reading the BAP report can raise up a number of emotions in you. Whether positive or negative it’s a good idea to take time to really digest it before responding to anything, even in your own mind. Read it a few times, ask yourself what they were getting at with any particular comments. Then… then respond to it.
Some candidates who were not recommended found the BAP report very difficult. Of course no one likes criticism but when you are already down, reading the negative things people have to say about you, at a time when, as I said, you have ‘bared your soul’, is not going to be anywhere near easy. If you need time to process before really looking at it then do take time.
Of course you may also find it positive, even if there were areas of concern. I certainly found this and despite some criticisms I didn’t 100% agree with, I generally felt they had understood me and felt very affirmed.
Colleges – choices – residential vs regional //
Of course the next step once you are recommended, is college. You may have been encouraged to look at potential colleges already but if not, get looking asap! Most colleges have open days where you can go and look around but do check out websites in advance too. Your diocese or Bishop may have preferred options but actually the choice is down to you, even though they may push for one or another. So, do your homework and find where you feel will work for you (and your family if applicable.)
There is an ongoing debate over residential or regional training and I won’t go into that in detail as I’ve written about it on my blog previously (links below) but as someone who attends a regional training college, don’t be fobbed off into thinking that it’s the poor second cousin of ministerial training. For some (including me) it really was the only option and if it’s approved by the Church of England (it is) then there really is no debate. You need to weigh up what is right for you and the best way to do this is to look at all the options thoroughly. Visit colleges, speak to existing students and find out exactly what it will mean for you.
In addition to this, if you are a younger women you may well be asked about plans for children. Several candidates in this category were told they could not train residentially if they planned to have children in the near future. Seemingly this was to do with the finances of training but I’ll just leave that one with you.
At this stage you will start a whole new process of looking into funding, grants, housing and all sorts, but that is for a future guide (maybe).
Off you go //
So… let me finish by saying, at whatever point you are in the process, I wish you well! I can honestly say it was one of the hardest but most amazing things I have ever done. I hope that this guide has been: not too positive, not too negative, but honest and useful. As I said earlier if this is to be useful then I would love to hear feedback – if there’s something incorrect, something I’ve missed or something you would like to add in, do get in touch.
I’ll end with this: a few years ago my DDO highlighted this by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. Referred to variously as prose, poetry and prayer, it just felt so right for this process.
Trust in the Slow Work of God
Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something
unknown, something new. And yet it is the law of all progress
that it is made by passing through some stages of instability
and that it may take a very long time. And so I think it is with you.
Your ideas mature gradually – let them grow,
let them shape themselves, without undue haste.
Don’t try to force them on, as though you could be today what time
(that is to say, grace and circumstances acting on your own good will) will make of you tomorrow.
Only God could say what this new spirit gradually forming within you will be.
Give Our Lord the benefit of believing that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself in suspense and incomplete.
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955)
What Now? //
CPAS Sheet – ‘On being not recommended for training. An excellent resource.
The Pilgrim Explorer Blog has a number of posts on his experience of going through discernment, the ones on not getting recommended are heartbreaking but totally honest, and a very worthwhile read either to prepare yourself for what could happen or to help you after BAP.
Please Sir Can I Have Some More on his BAP report.
Unpastoralized – more on the report and the aftermath.
Ernie also writes via the Big Bible, of his BAP experience of not being recommended.
Posts on college and training:
Intro – residential or regional training, full or part time, is one better than the other?
Regional Training at SEITE – a look at regional training from a student’s view point.
Residential at Oak Hill – a look at residential training from a student’s view point.
Residential at Cuddesdon- a look at residential training from a student’s view point.
A Mixed view – from someone who has been at both
When the Church Says ‘No’, Grove Booklet P98 by Helen Thorp – a useful tool written by a woman with much experience in vocational discernment.
Where is God When it Hurts? by Philip Yancey – Yancey is an inspiring author and this book looks at a range of seasons in which we might wonder where God is.