Becoming a priest in the Church of England is not something that you just do. First you go through a rigorous discernment process, both for the church to find out whether you are indeed the right person for this calling and for yourself to find out and to clarify your calling to the priestly office. The process differs from diocese to diocese and for the Diocese of Europe in which I find myself after moving back to Germany, it takes at least 18 months, though for most it is much longer. Currently I am at an in-between stage. I have not been accepted yet but have jumped through the first few hoops and completed some of the necessary steps. The first step (and this is the same no matter where you live, and, I suspect, no matter which church you worship with) is to talk to you local priest or vicar (here it’s a chaplain). In these conversations (and they should be several), you first discuss your sense of calling, he’ll give you some reading to do (the whole process will involve a lot of reading!) and guide you in your first baby steps explorations. If you are lucky, like me, your vicar will be supportive and helpful. The conversations can be really meaningful and help you to learn much about yourself and, incidentally, your vicar and his sense of calling. Eventually he will give your name to your Diocesan Director of Ordinands (DDO) – or whatever the equivalent is called in your diocese. This is when the official process starts. In the Diocese of Europe you are first invited to an informal weekend in London, when you meet others interested in ordination, learn about the process, a little about the Church of England and visit some “typical” parishes. This is necessary because many of the participants have only encountered the Church of England in its chaplaincies abroad, these visits show them parish life in England. After this visit you go back to your chaplaincy. The PCC has to officially adopt you as a postulant before things can progress. You are given a thick pack of papers to read and a long list of essays to write. Then you are invited to an interview with the DDO. This just happened a few weeks ago for me. In September I will attend another conference, when there will be more interviewing, a presentation, group discussions and after that, I will (or will not) be invited to appear before a bishop advisory panel. That is when the final decision will be made – will I receive training or not?
I don’t know if any of out there had to go through similar processes. For me it has been both illuminating and a hassle – I do have a “real” job to do on the side and am living my life with all its many distractions as well as preparing for this. How did you experience your discernment period? Did your church make you jump through similar hoops?