Exploring Ordained Ministry

You may feel clear that God is calling you to the Ordained Ministry or you may still be unsure. However it is for you, first follow some of the steps recommended in the Vocation section of this website.

Then you should speak to your vicar or chaplain. You should have been worshipping regularly in your home parish for at least six months, long enough to be known by the ministers and other church members.

Your vicar may then send you to see the Diocesan Director of Ordinands (DDO) who works with the Vocations Team. They are there to help you explore your sense of call. They will want to hear your own personal sense of being called and they will also talk with you about the ‘call of the Church’. It is important that you are informed and realistic about the joys and challenges of the Ordained Ministry and it is also important that other people can hear and recognise God’s call on your life.

The DDO oversees a process of discernment on behalf of the Sponsoring Bishop, which is set out in a flowchart. Typically this process of discernment takes between one and two years. It is rigorous and searching and requires some courage and patience! We are looking for evidence of particular gifts and aptitudes – see the Selection Criteria. The DDO may ask a candidate to do some reading, study, a parish placement and some work with a spiritual director.

After a number of interviews with the DDO the candidate is interviewed by two Examining Chaplains before meeting with the Sponsoring Bishop who decides whether or not to sponsor them for a Bishop’s Advisory Panel (BAP). The BAP is a residential three-day conference run by the Ministry Division of the Church of England during which candidates are interviewed by three Bishop’s Advisers interviews, do a piece of written work, make a presentation and chair a meeting. The Advisers make a recommendation to the Sponsoring Bishop who decides whether a candidate should begin training for the Ordained Ministry.

Following a BAP an Ordinand trains for two or three years, either full-time or part-time depending on age, prior learning and experience. It is important to discuss options carefully with the DDO:

  • under 32, an Ordinand will normally undertake three years’ training full time at a college, unless they already have a degree in theology, in which case the course is usually two years.
  • between 30 and 49, an Ordinand will normally train either two years full time or three years part time.
  • Over 50, an Ordinand will most likely train on a course. The length and content of training is decided by the Sponsoring Bishop.

Details of colleges and courses can be found at www.aocm.org.uk

College or course fees are paid by the Church of England. For those training part-time there is a small grant towards travel and books. For those training full-time the Diocese may offer a means-tested maintenance grant.

There are three ‘orders of ministry’ – bishops, priests and deacons. You can explore these strands of ministry in Steve Croft’s book, ‘Ministry in Three Dimensions’ (see booklist).

Many people who explore ordained ministry think of themselves as being a vicar in a local church community. However, some priests minister to people in their place of work, in a hospital, prison or university chaplaincy.

Most often people are ordained first as Deacon and then a year later as Priest – but there is growing interest in the ‘distinctive diaconate’. (see www.dace.org for more information)

A priest (also known as presbyter) represents Christ and his Church in a particular way, through a ministry of teaching, preaching, celebration of the sacraments and pastoral care. It is a ministry of leadership and mission, enabling all Christian people to share the Good News in their everyday lives.

But priesthood is not just about doing, but about being. Through the lives they lead, priests point to Jesus and encourage people to show love and compassion and to build the Kingdom of God. As they do this, priests share in people’s joys and sorrows as they walk with them on their journey through life. In the Ordination Service, the bishop says these words which express the heart of the ministry of a priest: ‘Priests are called to be servants and shepherds among the people to whom they are sent. With their Bishop and fellow ministers, they are to proclaim the word of the Lord and to watch for the signs of God’s new creation’.

A deacon is also a publicly acknowledged figure who is given authority to represent Christ and his Church in a particular way. The ministry of a deacon is to be a servant, both within the Church and in the community. Deacons have a particular role during worship, especially at the Eucharist, where they perform certain liturgical tasks, e.g. reading the Gospel, dismissing the congregation at the end of the service.

Most deacons are later ordained priests, usually after one year, but some feel called to be life-long distinctive deacons. In the Ordination Service, the bishop says these words which express the heart of the ministry of a deacon: ‘Deacons are called to work with the bishop and the priests with whom they serve as heralds of Christ’s kingdom. They are to proclaim the gospel in word and deed, as agents of God’s purposes of love’.

The Ordinal contains ancient words and images: it is the closest to a job description that a priest or deacon has.

Some deacons and priests are Stipendiary – they receive a stipend (remuneration which ensures that they are free to exercise their ministry without the need for other paid employment). Others are called Self-Supporting ministers (SSMs) and are unpaid, ministering alongside their employed work or in the local community.

In recent years the Holy Spirit has blown new life into the Church through the ‘Fresh Expressions’ movement. See www.freshexpressions.org.uk Some people feel called to be a deacon or priest in a way that pushes the boundaries of traditional church, pioneering new ways of engaging with contemporary culture. If so you want to explore pioneer ministry, go to www.freshexpressions.org.uk

You can never be too young for God to call you! There are many people who can trace their earliest sense of calling to their childhood or teenage years. If you are between the ages of ? and ? visit the Call Waiting website www.callwaiting.org.uk or contact our Young Vocations Champion, Lydia Gaston, at [email protected].