Saturday, 7 October 2017

I am an ordinand...WHAT?!

I would have uploaded this ASAP but our college house has not had working Wifi so I write to you now from a week into being here at Cranmer Hall, Durham.

As you can probably tell from the title of this post, I'm not really very relaxed about being an ordinand. It's still weird, and scary, and unbelievable, after such a long time getting here, actually being here doesn't feel like it should be happening. Surely there's another hoop to go through? Surely I'm not truly ready to claim the title 'ordinand'.

The implications of coming to train are vast and varied, and the thought that I am actually going to be a priest is only one. New city, new house, reduced money situation, being away from my friends, taking all the opportunities available to me, being a student again, living with other people again - it's been exhausting dealing with it all at once. I'm lucky that I've moved a lot over the last few years, so the move is less dramatic, but there's still an emotional wrench of moving from the south east to the north east, with a different rhythm to the city, learning to find my way around, not living on my own any more, not using public transport every day...oh, and the temperature. I am a delicate English rose, and working out how much clothing I need every day, investing in thermal underwear, and finding out where nearby sells electric blankets, all makes for a tad more stress.

I've already fallen down in my self-care. I failed to remember how I know I operate, that I need intimacy with God, with close friends, and with myself, to balance my mental health into a good state. Plus this week has involved a lot of meeting people, forgetting their names, and working out which ones will be more work to get on with than others, which is a drain even on an outgoing extrovert like yours truly. So I had a slightly emotional night last night, which I am in the process of remedying, so no harm done. But lesson learned, the hard way.

We've had introductory talks, a prayer day in the cathedral, a day of lectures from a world expert on Thomas Cranmer, a college freshers' fair (I signed onto the mailing lists of LGBT+ Soc, FemSoc, and the theatre society), many cups of tea in the common room, and matriculation when I was thrilled to have my first outing in a cassock and used my cloak to boot.

A lot of the induction this week has been like any other university - like the police officer telling us not to take drugs, and the fireman telling us not the cover our smoke alarms with clingfilm - just with more Christianity, and advice/info being spoken into our proto-clergy situation, like the dual nature of our focus, that our academia is merely half of our time here, and our spiritual lives take as much precedence. This of course echoes ministry, giving us good practice.

I will be honest, the academic side terrifies me. I was pretty good at school work, though not essays, and this is my first degree to do 'proper' essays, as opposed to the self-reflective ones from my previous degree. Doing reading, spending time in the library, it's all alien and I'm not confident in my own ability to do very well.

At least I'm on the way to making friends here. The house is finally settled, with only an ice cube tray to source  (for the gin and tonics you understand). I like the fact that I have an uphill 15 minute walk to college everyday, and morning prayer to do, evening worship to join as well. I've managed to arrange a space in my room for my prayer stool, so I can kneel in front of my small standing cross. I'm being good with my diet, taking heed of the warnings against 'the Cranmer stone'. I'm also damn pleased to have my comfy armchair in the living room!

Blimey. I am an ordinand. We'll see how this goes.

Thursday, 7 September 2017

07/09/2017 Two years since start of exploration of vocation

This is a weird place to be. To have done so much and come so far, and still to be at the beginning of something - come October, it's somewhat of a clean slate for me. I haven't processed yet, for sure. I was in the St Martin's bubble, the London bubble, it was all happening to me and it's almost like I can step into my own journey now, I can do it rather than it happen to me.

I thought I could be more coherent in text but I'm struggling to write as much as I was struggling to talk in the video. I can't yet reflect on the last year, the way I did in my last anniversary post, because it hasn't settled in me yet, the momentum still has it suspended before it can land and sink in.

Sorry. What a terrible blog post. At least it reflects what I'm feeling - an unspecific jumble. I'm out of focus; hopefully I'll come into frame ready in October. And I'll take you with me.

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

My BAP and the result

If you don’t follow me on Twitter (which you should, of course, so click here) then you won’t have heard the news. Before I had even had time to process the BAP enough to put together a blog post about it, I got the result – I’ve been recommended!!

To keep in chronological order, I’ll tell the full story of hearing the news after telling you about my BAP.

Now, for good reason, candidates are advised not to go into too much detail about exactly what we were asked etc so I wrote some notes as I went about how I was feeling.


Thoughts from the BAP:

Monday 26th June 2017
12.30pm – D-Day
About to head to the station to catch my train. I've given myself a nice easy morning feeling relaxed and a little productive. I'll go over my notes from the last few days on the train. I should have built in enough contingency time if something goes wrong with the transport - otherwise I'll arrive with enough time to unpack and settle before we kick off.
I'm feeling like you do when you wake up at half 2 in the morning to go on holiday - that tension in the stomach that comes from excitement and nerves, even though you know what you're doing and it's all currently going to plan. I'm all jangly with adrenaline, my senses feel heightened, but I think I'm okay.
I've done all I can. I've followed the call and prepared myself for this week. I think I've got a good shot ie I think God has called me as I am and at this time, and I've just got to trust that my judgement on it is accurate. I trust that the outcome will be what it's supposed to.

Monday 26th June 2017
4.30pm – start of the BAP
Arrived and settled into my room. I can’t believe I’m here, and I can’t believe this is it. I’ve been getting so many messages of support including some arriving to post to the retreat house! I have all the cards lined up on my desk, and I have lots of little messages from St James’ people that I will open throughout the next few days to keep me going.
It’s a lovely little room with a view out onto the garden. My fluttering heart seems out of place in the tranquility of it. But this is the quiet before the storm – I’m always calmer once the storm hits! I’m going to spend a few more minutes going over my notes and then head down.

8.30pm – end of BAP day 1
Only one assessed exercise so far; we’ve been getting to know each other a bit and had supper. I’m relaxed now, which is good. It’s exactly what I thought I would do – I’m a confident person so I’m lucky that it’s been fear of the unknown that's made me most nervous. And it’s just ordinary here. It’s people in a place, it’s rooms and corridors, tea and lanyards, garden, chapel – yes, it’s a holy time that we are spending prayerfully, but that doesn’t mean puritanical monastic discipline and everyone being all serious all the time. Which really helps. So I think so far I have managed the main goal – be myself.

Tuesday 27th June 2017
5pm – part way through BAP day 2
Meant to write something before lunch but it’s all been quite tiring! It’s only sitting around talking and listening but it’s a lot of concentration. The guys running it are all very good at putting us our ease without losing the sense of being focussed on the task at hand.
Three more assessed tasks down. This morning of presentations was quite fun really, and this afternoon I had my first interview, which went better than I thought, thank you God. It was almost fun too. I felt more relaxed than I thought I would be, I didn’t blank like I thought I would, and I didn’t regret anything I said. I even had something to say at the end when he asked “would you like to add anything?” which I normally blank at as well!

Wednesday 28th June 2017
9am – start of the last BAP day
My second interview yesterday evening went well too, so here’s hoping that my last one this morning will make a hat trick! A lot of us candidates spent an hour or so after compline having a few drinks in the lounge, which was nice. It’s always good for me to be able to socialise, and for us all to have some completely relaxed time, with people who aren’t judging us.
I can’t believe it’s almost over. This fulcrum point in my life has not felt as profound as it actually is – but then, I’m making the turn at the moment, but the new direction won’t be confirmed until the phone call from the bishop. So really I’m still in suspense even come the end of the BAP.


Getting the news and how I’ve been since I heard:

I got back home the evening of Wednesday 28th June, and a week later in the evening of Thursday 6th July, I was sitting eating beans on toast waiting for Mock the Week to start on TV when an unrecognised number rang my phone. Yes, it was the bishop. When he told me that the assessors had recommended me and he was happy to accept, I made this funny high pitched noise, like a cross between a yelp and a squeal! He very kindly also said "They knew a good thing when they saw one" which made me blush.

And to be utterly honest, after the phone call ended, I turned the sound back on the TV as the opening credits of Mock the Week started and after a few quiet tears, I sat back and laughed at the jokes. I sit here now, several days later, and I’m still a little numb with shock, like my nerves have been fried, overloaded and overwhelmed.

Being a bit of a detailed planner, I had already written a list of people to tell immediately so when the programme ended, I methodically messaged them all, then went to lie in bed and stare at the ceiling. I prayed something incoherent, not able to muster the inner stillness to encounter God, but eventually did get to sleep.

Like a lot of the process, life has gone on around this massive life changing thing without the pause that's needed. I didn’t haven’t time to contemplate on Friday, I had things to do! I had a friend come over for lunch and we baked cakes. It wasPride in London on Saturday, so I had to do preparations, like bake cakes!

Timing went awry. She left about 5pm and I started making two placards (I’ll put Pride pictures at the end of this post). Then half 9 at night my mother called me to try and talk about that oh-yeah-i-forgot-I’m-going-to-be-a-priest thing, and I muffled (incoherently again) at her while I stuffed crisps and biscuits down my throat as ‘dinner’ and said goodbye to set up for the next task. I started painting my nails at 10.10pm, got to bed at 1am, got up at 6am.

Got to St Martin’s at 8.30am with face paint and temporary tattoos done, and set about writing out the liturgy I had figured out with the priest the day before into a service sheet, whilst refugees cooked in the kitchen. 10am, about 25 people gathered in the church for said service, prayers for Pride, and it was very moving.

Can you tell yet that I was fairly well distracted? Saturday was awesome, having lunch with the St Martin’s people and going to march with them in the parade, and the Pride Eucharist was beautiful at St James’. But I was so tired by then, even the mystery of the sacrament didn’t penetrate.

Then back to work Sunday, including pelting across Westminster after leading the children’s club at St Martin’s to arrive in time to give a notice at the end of St James’ service to share my good news. And then getting home exhausted, barely catching my breath, before going on a nostalgia trip of what might have been, going to watch a show that, had I not left theatre, I would have been working on.


I still feel numb. I need time, and rest, and space, to soften, to settle into the reality of what my life will now be, what has finally been decided. I can say that I was aware of the tension I hadn’t realised was there lifting after that phonecall. I realised my body had relaxed, after a week of subconscious anxiety, waiting for the news.

I'll go see the DDO to look at the report later this week, and see the rector at St James' for a bit of a debrief. And then more paperwork and plans for Durham! Aaiii.

I reckon it’ll hit me in a few weeks, when I’ve got time off work to go to Taize. I’ll let you know. But oh my God you guys, I got through…


(Pride pics as promised)

Getting crafty making placards

Baking cakes, because we queers need a lot of sugar!

All the colours! Pride is only reason
I own orange nail polish
Not as good as last year,
but gets the point across
Going for a subtle look....


St James' AWESOME altar cloth
St Martin's Rainbow flag on Trafalgar Square