I said a few days ago that I would be starting to write up and document my journey to Priesthood.  It’s a bit too late to retrace the last 3 and a half years or so of my calling (though you can find bits of it in the deepest darkest archives of my blog). However, I feel that this post about Provincial Selection (also known as BAP [Bishop’s Advisory Panel], or Provincial Discernment Board) will be useful to all those who are embarking on this journey, about to go to a panel or just curious. At least, I hope it will be!

*Please note that this particular post is tailored to the Church in Wales, though the general gist of a panel is the same, though content may vary slightly! – Do feel free to post questions in the comments section if you want!

OK, so let’s set the scene. You’ve

  1. Felt a call to ordained ministry and owned it for yourself (by that, I mean you’ve recognised it and you’re not running away from it any longer)
  2. You’ve explored this with your Vicar
  3. Your vicar and other members of your local Anglican church (and I stress Anglican, because some people think they can be ordained without being part of a local Anglican church – what?!) have confirmed that call in you and have communicated this clearly.
  4. You’ve been put in touch with your DDO (Diocesan Director of Ordinands) who you’ve met with regularly to talk about your calling.
  5. Your DDO has asked you to do all sorts of tasks (which seem like hoop jumping at times but absolutely necessary if you are to be selected for training) such as reading, writing essays and reflections, going on placements etc.
  6. You will have seen a Vocations Advisor (or more than one) to discuss your calling.
  7. There’s been a bit of back and forward meetings with the DDO again.
  8. You may go to a Diocesan Selection Panel (Not all dioceses have one of these!)
  9. Your DDO thinks you’re ready for a selection/discernment panel and informs you of the process
  10. You’ve filled in a registration form and had it checked and filled it in to the best of your ability!
  11. You’ve got some references (people who you can trust and who know you well) – you will normally have 3 references, a vocational, pastoral and educational reference (9 criteria split into blocks of three)

Once this general checklist is all ticked off (there may be more or less items for you – again, discuss in comments!), you will then begin the eager wait to have a meeting with your Bishop (and if your Bishop is any good, he/she will be very supportive of you and spend a little time during the meeting prepping you for the selection panel and praying with you, which mine did [thank the Lord])

And then, usually short notice, you will get this:

A letter from the Provincial Discernment Board Secretary!

This letter will basically give you general details of the board, what will happen, what to bring, where it is (in Wales, at least at the time of writing, almost always at the Gladstone Library in Hawarden, North Wales.) It’s a beautiful place, with a magnificent library, fantastic food, and good accommodation. Warning though: you probably won’t be able to sleep very well anyway, and the church clock goes all through the night. In the summer months, it gets quite hot in the building!

Right, now let’s skip forward a bit – the day has come! You’re off to the panel! *Emergency prayers are completely fine at this point. Know that God is with you!

Once you get to the location of the panel, and you’ve settled in, the Provincial Discernment Conference will officially begin. So now, I will give a brief summary of what happens:

  1. There will firstly be an introductory meeting where you do the “What’s your name and where you come from” stuff. Then the Chair and Secretary will give a general overview of the conference and give you some house rules etc. You will also meet the selectors and find out about them. There may also be an observer present – these are people training to be selectors. You may find that they sit in on one or more of your interviews. They won’t ask you questions, but they will be taking notes.
  2. Following that, there is a ice breaker session where you talk together about a given issue. This exercise is primarily to give you a feel for how the conference will be, but be warned – the selectors are there and even if they aren’t making notes, they will be observing you!
  3. Meal times are a great time to get to know the other candidates and the selectors. Make sure you get to sit next to as many candidates and selectors as possible during the conference – this is vitally important. Selectors will be observing you at meal times.
  4. Also on day 1 there is what the Church in Wales call a “personal update“. It feels like a test, and in a way it is, but you mustn’t see it as a test. Be open and honest with your answers. You don’t get long to complete it either, and you probably won’t finish the whole paper (none of the candidates at my conference did). In the Church of England, they call this bit the “personal inventory”, which will be very similar in nature.
  5. The conference is punctured with times of worship (morning and evening prayer and Eucharist). Unlike the CoE system (as far as I’m aware) you will, as a Welsh ordinand, be asked to take part in the service. That may mean reading, leading the prayers, serving at the altar etc. Be sensible – do what you’re comfortable with. The worship is there for you to be fed spiritually and enjoy, not a test.
  6. On day 1 you will also have your first interview. Interviews will be spaced out throughout the 3 days you’re at the conference. In the Church in Wales, all candidates have five interviews:
    • vocational interview (looking at the first three sections of the selection criteria) looking at your calling to specifically ordained ministry, your prayer life/spirituality, and how you see the Church.
    • Two pastoral interviews (looking at the second three sections of the selection criteria) – and these will be split into one pastoral interview looking at leadership, and another pastoral interview looking at relationships.
    • An educational interview (looking at the last three sections of the selection criteria) looking at your personal faith, how you communicate it to others and academic ability.
    • And finally, a general interview with the Provincial Discernment Board Secretary. The purpose of this interview is to clear things up, round any sharp corners, just to make sure that there all bases have been covered.
  7. On day two, you will have your written project given to you and the group discussions (yes, group discussionS). Let’s look at these in turn.
    • The written project is a piece of work that you’ll have to do (about 300 words) on your own and will test your ability to communicate with those outside the church. It could be on anything, so don’t try and revise! It could also take any format (article, letter etc.) (In the Church of England, I believe you have a presentation to do which is based on the 5 Marks of Mission, but I’m afraid I can’t help you any more than that!)
    • The first group discussion are the 10 minute topics. These are designed to test your ability to chair and facilitate a group discussion as well as looking at your analytical skills in being able to sum up a discussion. The topics will be unseen in that you won’t have time to go away and prepare. They will likely range from being very hot topics, ethical topics, to easier topics. At my selection conference, I had to go first. I won’t tell you what my subject was!
    • The second group discussion is the pastoral topic. This will be looking at your ability to analyse, reason, think pastorally and listen to others. They will also be looking for contributions from you regarding the issue. The pastoral topic will be hard and probably impossible to fathom or give a straight answer to in the time given. The aim isn’t for the group to give a solution; merely to discuss and reflect.
  8. On day three, you will have your final interviews (out of the five mentioned above), there will be worship, food and then home!

Once you go home, the panel will meet to discuss the conference and make a decision (recommendation / recommendation with conditions / non recommendation). This will be made on the last day (though I’ll explain more about this in my next post). It is important to note that the Panel Secretary and any observers present at the conference will not have a vote on you, but will be allowed to contribute to the discussion.

Then, the waiting begins! Again, more on that in my next post.

I hope this gives you a general overview of what to expect during the Provincial Discernment Panel (or BAP, or whatever!). My next post will give you some general tips and advice on the conference. So do stay tuned! Please do use the comments section to ask questions, share stories and experiences, add your opinion etc.

Until next time…