Follow up from yesterday’s blog
Later on, after meeting Bishop Christopher Mayfield( representing Bishop of Worcester), my diocese was happy to sponsor me to attend a Bishops’ Advisory Panel (BAP) to see if the Church of England will recognise my call to ordained ministry.
Before then I have completed a detailed Registration form. This was the most in-depth form I have ever needed to complete in my life. As required,I wrote a reflection between 500 – 750 words about an aspect of Mission and Evangelism that is related to my experience and which I feel drawn as part of my calling. (Criterion H – which is one of the nine criterions we are all assessed with. For more details click here)
In preparation for BAP, I also prepared a presentation in which I spoke for five minutes on a topic chosen by me, which relates to an aspect of one of the criteria selection. I decided to do a presentation on diversity within the Church of England: how we can stand together and work together to enhance our Church mission and ministry to the nation, without compromising my own sense of identity. I became so passionate about this subject which changed me greatly in thinking of Christian unity(A reduced version of this presentation was printed in Christianity Magazine Aug 2014 page 7 and the full version can be seen elsewhere in my blog).
I needed also to think through how to facilitate a 13 – minute group discussion on the subject after my presentation.
Prayer and regular communion with God is paramount . My prayer life has changed greatly ever since I started this process even though this not to the point I would like it to be. I find it very comforting and encouraging to know that many people were/ are praying for me and the entire family.
During the BAP
My BAP took place from 16-18th June 2014 at Bishop Woodford House, Ely(http://www.bishopwoodfordhouse.com). I took the advice from many people not to drive, so I went by train. The conference is the culmination of the exploration period. I really enjoyed these three days of hard work of looking into my life, reflecting,talking and listening. Prayer and worship were central to the conference. Even though it was not compulsory to be part of most of the worship and prayer, I found it refreshing to spend time in the midst of these busy 3 days, to focus on our Father in heaven.
Monday the 16th June 2014
Since I know very well that I often find it very disorientating to end up rushing to get to a meeting on time; I decided to be there in a very good time. After I took some time to rest and pray; I went and joined the other 15 candidates for us to start to know ourselves; how far did you have travelled to come here was a common question. We are all men in this particular conference. The conference started with an introductory session where we tried to get to know each other. This is followed by a 40 -minute personal inventory. After the supper, we were briefed by the panel secretary and the pastoral exercise was given. The pastoral exercise was for me to respond to a complex pastoral issue in a form of a letter. I had the whole of Tuesday and Wednesday afternoon to write this exercise.
After night prayers at 9 PM, some of us candidates decided to go to the pub to have something to drink. I loved the fact that many of us have a great sense of humour. They can’t believe that I only drink soft drinks at the pub. I found it very relaxing. I went to bed around 11PM or so
Tuesday the 17th June 2014
I slept well and woke up early as usual to face the full day. It was excellent to start the day with Holy Communion at 7.30 AM. After breakfast, we divided into 2 groups for the presentation and discussions. The various presentations and discussions stimulated new ideas and help me to think deeply on the issues that came up. Most of the time, I even forgot that I was being assessed by the advisers. I contributed to the discussions as if it were a real situation and I had the sense that other candidates were doing the same (I don’t know for sure). As a group, we worked together as if we have had know each other for a very long; It seemed like a kind of business meeting (such as a PCC meeting or a working group for the various issues addressed).
After tea, at 4.15 pm I went for my first interview with the Vocational Advisor which addressed the three criteria: Vocation, Ministry within the Church of England and Spirituality. He drew upon my registration form, the personal inventory and my presentation. It did not feel like an interview to me but rather discussions as brothers in Christ, seeking together how our Church’s ministry and mission can be enhanced while our relationship with God flourishes.
After Evensong and supper, I went for another interview with the Pastoral Advisor which addressed the three criteria: Personality & Character, Relationship and Leadership & Collaboration. Like the the Vocational Adviser, he drew upon my registration form, personal inventory, but not much upon my presentation. He talked about my cross-cultural experience. Again, it was like a discussion rather than an interview. I came out from this interview feeling there must be something wrong. I decided to book to see the Advisor again the following day; when I met him I realised perhaps there was not need for this meeting after all. It was just that I was not used to such an interview.
After night prayers, we went to the pub again to chat. We shared our experiences with a great deal of respect to the process by not saying the exact questions we were asked. After I came back from the pub, I planned my pastoral exercise and then went to bed.
Wednesday 18th June 2014
I woke up this day with energy and a sense that people were praying for me. I got ready and went to Holy Communion morning service at 7.30 followed by breakfast at 8am . I wrote my pastoral exercise this morning as I only have one last interview at 12 PM before lunch. I felt that my letter reflected what I would say if faced with the same situation in real life.The last interview for me was with the Educational Advisor which addressed the three criteria: Faith, Mission & Evangelism and Quality of Mind. Just like Vocation and Pastoral Advisors, she engaged me in discussion.After this interview which was followed by lunch, I then went and rounded up my pastoral exercise; sent it via email for printing and then went to Ely Cathedral to relax ( If you are at BAP, you would not need to pay)
The conference started to draw to close from 3 pm ; we all handed in our pastoral exercise and we were encouraged to leave the outcome in the hand of God. I loved the closing worship and one of the hymns that I really appreciated was “Great is Thy faithfulness”.
The candidates departed before 4 pm and it happened that I was one of the few who left later as I had booked my return ticket for later in the evening. At this stage I felt very much at peace as I left. I did not feel any certainty about the outcome but I felt that the Advisors listened to me as a brother in Christ. It was great to come back home to meet my family.
Waiting for the outcome
We were told that the earliest we would get the report wasThursday 26th of June. I came back and wanted to continued normal with my mission work but found that I could not do that very well. I realised that I was too tired and could not effectively carry on with my usual activities. I was so surprised that the waiting was so difficult as I kept on remembering where I thought I had made mistakes. This waiting revealed to me surprisingly that I can have tendency to worry and waiting is not my strong point.
Late afternoon on Thursday 26th June, my Bishop- Bishop John Inge rang me and told me that the BAP has recommended me for training for ordination. Praise God!
What I could do the same or differently in such situation
Do the same or even more
Travel by train rather than driving
Ask many people to pray
Go on time and leave late to avoid any kind of rush
Socialise with others
Avoid going with a lot of books – no time to read or revise. It is not an examination
Try to plan a rest after the conference
Do the pastoral exercise on the second day to give time to proof-read
If possible, switch off mobile phone to avoid awkward calls or text messages
Plan for the waiting time to be less stressful – not sure how to do that
Some good blogs and online resources if you are preparing for BAP
What if not recommended?
Encouraging vocation from Ethnic Minority