Calling to the Ministry,
the journey so far
Hannah Brooks was recently accepted for training for the Ministry. We asked Hannah to write about her journey to this decision and to explain what was involved. Hannah has offered to write further articles as her training continues.
I have felt called to some sort of church ministry since I first became a Christian 10 years ago. However, it wasn’t until I approached my final year of study at Cardiff University that I became aware that I needed to start thinking seriously about the future. After much prayer and contemplation I went to see Lisa and chat to her about my sense of calling to church ministry. I knew I was called to serve God and to help people to find him in this busy world, however I felt that I was called more to a chaplaincy role, working with the marginalised, rather than within a parish context. Lisa referred me to a vocations advisor in Reading whom I chatted to about my calling and she advised me of the next steps. I was encouraged to read a lot of books, such as The Life and Work of a Priest (Pritchard) and The Christian Priest Today (Ramsey) in order to help inform my calling and I also went on a Lifecall Vocations day for young people. The vocations advisor quickly referred me on to the Diocesan Director of Ordinands (DDO) to further explore my calling and what it might involve. All this happened in the space of just a few months (Aug-Nov 2011) and I had to keep my eyes on God the whole time as I found it overwhelming and scary as well as exciting! I was encouraged by passages such as ‘I can do all things through him who gives me strength’ (Phil 4:13) and ‘show me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul’ (Ps 143:8).
I went to see the DDO in November for the first time. His job was to help me discern my vocation, whether it be to ordained ministry, lay ministry or something outside the church and then to test that calling to see if it genuinely was from God. There are nine criteria that a potential ordinand must fulfil and the DDO and I would discuss these in our meetings and consider if, and how, I met these. For example, one is vocation and we would discuss how I felt called and if others had perceived such a calling. Another was faith and we would talk about what I felt the ‘good news’ was and what things in my life had weakened or strengthened my faith. The whole experience is a challenge as you are forced to look back over your life and consider your own journey with God and also to think hard about your own strengths and weaknesses, your prayer life, relationships with others etc. I next saw the DDO in December and he decided he wanted to send me to a selection conference so that if I was accepted I could go to train the following September, just a few months after graduating from Cardiff. This meant I needed to start looking at colleges and also arrange to have a meeting with the Bishop of Reading as he would be the one officially sending me on the selection conference, with the DDO as his advisor.
I went to look at a couple of colleges and decided on Ripon College Cuddesdon, Oxford. It is a beautiful college located just outside Oxford in lovely countryside. I received a warm welcome on my visit there and felt I would fit in well. After a couple of informal interviews they made me an offer and I accepted. All this of course would be provisional on the church recommending me for training. I had the date for my selection conference, known as a Bishop’s Advisory Panel (BAP), confirmed in January for 18th – 20th June. These few days away were held in a retreat centre in Staffordshire and I spent the months leading up to it preparing with the DDO and on my own as well as completing a lot of paperwork! There were two groups at the BAP, each with three advisors (assessing us) and 7 candidates. The BAP consisted of three interviews focusing on the nine criteria, a presentation made by each candidate to a group and then a group discussion facilitated by that candidate, a pastoral problem to which we each had to write a response and a personal inventory where we were given a limited time to answer probing questions. The whole event was pretty exhausting and we were being observed the whole time, but I came away satisfied that I had portrayed myself and my sense of calling accurately and I kept praying for the advisors that they would seek God and that His will would be done.
I found out on 28th June that I had been accepted for training and I was shocked as well as excited! I am off to Cuddesdon on 24th September to begin two years of training which will leave me with a Master of Theology. From my understanding my training will consist of placements in various churches and a secular institution such as a hospital, as well as lectures and seminars and quite a few essays!
I would like to thank everyone for their support during this time of exploration especially Lisa and my family and Matt. The last year has been a bit of a whirlwind but having kept my eyes fixed on God I am confident that I am following the right path. Now when I read the verse in Hebrews which says ‘let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us’, I finally feel as though I can see the markers and with God at my side I just need to keep running!