This article was originally written in July of 2004 for our Parish magazine.
As some of you will already know, I was recently recommended by the Bishops’ Selection Conference for training for the ordained ministry. I would like to thank you all for your support and prayers. But how did I get to this stage? It certainly wasn’t easy or quick.
I had been thinking for a few years about possibly going towards the ordained ministry, prompted to some degree by wee comments from family, neighbours and friends who thought that ‘You would make a good wee minister!’ At that stage I thought about it, but didn’t do anything about it. But at Summer Madness in 1999, I felt what could only be described as a ‘burden’ on my heart that was a call to the ordained ministry. Bearing in mind I was only starting Queen’s that autumn, I didn’t do much about it, but it was always at the back of my mind. A verse that challenged me through my time at QUB was Isaiah 40:31 ‘They that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength’. Was my hesitancy me waiting on the Lord for his timing, or just putting off doing what I should be doing?
The same burden came to me at Summer Madness in 2002, and this time I knew there could be no hesitation, or denying it. I fully believed that God was calling me, and it was up to me to take Him at His word and respond in faith. This would be the start of a two-year Selection Process, which has only just ended leading up to this year’s Summer Madness.
Shortly after SM, I chatted with Stephen, who referred me on to Rev Norman Jardine. It turned out that a few weeks later, he was leading a Network Course for people in the diocese thinking about ministry and missions in Knockbreda. Network seeks to help people identify their passion, spiritual gifts and leadership style. Having completed this, I met Rev Paul Hewitt, the Diocesan Director of Ordinands, who told me a bit more about Selection Conferences, and found out a bit about why I was there.
Following on from that, I had a consultation with the Diocesan Exploring Ministry Panel, where we looked at the results of the Network Course, and discussed my experience and my future. They recommended that I should test my calling through the structures of the Church, so I passed on to the next stage.
For me, this was an interview with the Bishop, preceded by psychological testing and interview in Glencraig, looking at my personality and character, among other things. The interview with the Bishop also looked at my view of my calling and vocation, my experiences, and my vision for the church. He then sent me to the Bishops’ Selection Conference in the Theological College in Dublin.
This was held in two parts, in March and June, and covered a lot of material. In March, we had academic testing, as well as psychometric testing and an interview with a psychologist. In June, we had five half hour interviews with a Bishop, a Minister, a member of the Theological College staff, and two Lay People. Each of these interviews looked at different aspects of my application form, including my work experience, sense of vocation, church experience, leadership, academic ability and devotional life. We also had an observed group exercise, in which groups of 8 or 9 people discussed an issue, to see how we interacted and co-operated.
From 2nd June until the 15th I was in the waiting game. Answers to the questions in the interviews kept floating through my head, and it was difficult to know if I had done enough, and made a good case for myself. Thankfully the results of the Panel came through reasonably quickly, and they were positive.
The last two years have been enjoyable, but also a real challenge. The fun came from being in contact with other people who are also considering the call of God on their lives, through the Diocesan Fellowship of Vocation events (including barbecues, coffee mornings and residentials), and also at Selection Conference. But it was also a challenge, as many people asked about my motivation for seeking ordination, my faith, and lots more. The interviews weren’t always easy, but they led to me thinking deeply about what I was doing, and have, I hope, led to growth in my faith and devotions, as I realised that I couldn’t do it by myself, that I needed to be fully dependant on God to get me through.
But the process doesn’t stop here. My next few years at College will still be a challenge, and a testing of my calling. But with your prayers, and the grace and faithfulness of God, I will get through that and DV be ordained in 2008.
I’m looking forward to my time in Dublin at College, experiencing student life in the city, and making friendships with the other students in the same position as myself. It will also be a special time, being able to learn more about God, and being equipped to build up the Kingdom and the Body of Christ.
Please pray for me as I prepare to go, that I will continue to know God’s peace, that I will settle at University, returning from being in a workplace and adjusting to student poverty again (!); and that I will know God more and more through all that happens.