Have I told you that recently I have joined a team of Vocations Advisers in our diocese? There were five of us, now four because one has been made a DDO (that’s Diocesan Director of Ordinands for the uninitiated in churchy-speak). It is all very new to us and the diocese so nobody is quite sure what we will end up doing but at the moment we are doing lots of talking and planning. In time we hope to do more listening, obviously. I think the plan is that people who think they may have a vocation or feeling that God is wanting them to ‘do something’ will come to see us first to explore those feelings. Somehow it will be our job to help them discern whether this ‘calling’ is something which requires ordination or can be done as a lay person. If we think it is a calling to ordained ministry then we will pass them on to the DDO, but if not, then we can take things further… Well, I’m not exactly sure how that will develop but in time I hope all will be revealed.
Last week four of us set off for Durham for the National Vocations Advisers’ Consultation which was held in the College of St Hild and St Bede (more of that later!) We found ourselves among people from the CofE who have been doing this job for many years so there was lots of experience around us. There were some great speakers and what a delight to see quite a few young clergy amongst us. In fact, I hadn’t realised how starved we are of young clergy in the SEC until I saw these fresh-faced young things grooving about. (Now that has dated me immediately. Grooving? Who says ‘grooving’ these days?) Of course we have had some young people going forward for selection but they all seem to be told to go away and get some experience first. This is rather amusing considering that most clergy there in their 50s and 60s had been ordained in their 20s. And I’ll bet they had less ‘experience’ than the young people we now send. Anyway, I digress…
I have also come home thinking ‘how on earth did I get through’? Periodically in my life I go through phases of pondering this very question. Sometimes I feel as if I don’t quite tick all the boxes when I look around me in clergy gatherings. Someone, somewhere must have taken an awful risk the day they met me – or had a great sense of humour. But if I met someone like me, I wonder how I would feel about putting them forward? So I guess we have to be open to the Holy Spirit because at the end of the day it is She who really makes the decisions.
It was quite a full programme at the Consultation beginning with devotions at 7.30am. Jings. All led by men until the last day when we had the lovely Sister Bev of SSF leading Morning Prayer. There was much climbing of hills, Durham being even hillier I think than Edinburgh. Down to the chapel and breakfast, then up to the talks and bed. Up and down the hills we went, getting lost quite a lot on the first day. I tell you, you wouldn’t want to be a disabled student at the College of St Hild and St Bede.
On the last day we had a tour of Durham Cathedral and mass at the high altar. Durham is surely one of my favourite cathedrals. It is so butch and solid. And I love the wooden Mary in the Galilee Chapel (see pic above).
Of course I hadn’t realised that student accommodation doesn’t mean en-suite these days. So yes, dear reader, this involved much wandering about in the corridors in the middle of the night hunting for the one door among many which had WC on it. (It also had the one bath with shower hose attached.) Of course I hadn’t taken a dressing gown with me so I had to do the scampering about with my eyes closed so that nobody could see my glam night attire. (You know the theory that if you can’t see them, they can’t see you?)
My bed was of the metal folding-up kind. In other words – a camp bed. How ecclesiastical! But the noises it made if you so much as moved an inch were far from camp. It groaned and squeaked in an alarming fashion. The walls of course, were paper-thin so the snoring could be heard five rooms away. My snoring, that is. One has to assume that these students do not have sex.
The food in the canteen was copious and just fine. The coffee was shocking and from a machine which gave out warm water when you pressed the Decaff button. I was told then to use a sachet of instant stuff which wouldn’t dissolve because the water wasn’t hot enough. And no mugs either! Bloody cups and saucers. I’m sure my humour wasn’t improved by the dehydration I must have been suffering.
Apart from that it was great and I can’t wait for the next one in two years time.