Ordination: How does it all work?
The basic structure of journeying towards ordained ministry follows three key stages, but your precise pathway will be whatever is most appropriate for you.
- You will train for two to three years, studying for a diploma or degree in theology, after which you will be ordained by your Bishop.
- Your first post is called a curacy. This is training post where you will work with the priest for the few years of ministry.
- Your starting point is to meet with your own vicar or chaplain to talk with them about your sense of calling. They can help you with prayerful discernment.
- Arrange to meet with the vocations team in your diocese, they will work with you to discern where you are called to, and help you prepare for section and training.
- It is important you continually pray about your vocation through the whole discernment process.
What sort of experience do I need to become a priest in The Church of England?
Relationship with Jesus and a deep sense of commitment to mission and evangelism that others recognise
What sort of person do I have to be to be accepted for ordination?
You just have to be yourself, someone that loves Jesus and wants to see the power of the cross transform others.
Do Priests get paid?
Yes, they do, but it’s not quite the same way as people in the secular job. Their wage is called a “Stipend” an allowance to support them towards their everyday lives as they carry out their parochial duties. The average stipend is just over £26,000, per annum, with an accommodation (A Vicarage or Rectory maintained by the diocese) and payment from the diocese towards their council tax and maybe water rates.
Note. Some priests don’t get paid (stipend) – they are normally on a non-stipendiary role or on a house-for-duty post (in which case the get a free housing in turn for their 2-3 days a week parochial role). Whereas some priests (normally referred to as an SSM i.e. “self-supporting minister) take up a secular role but are licenced to a parish either as an assistant priest or with permission to officiate from the area or diocesan bishop.
Is it boring to be a Priest?
Not at all, it’s actually quite “challenging, interesting, fun but be careful of “burnout” – we haven’t actually met a young priest who is bored in their work.
Who is an ordinand?
An ordinand is a Priest-in-training, who has been through the process of discerning their vocation and, following a Bishop’s advisory panel have been selected for training.
What happens if I’m recommended for training?
Once the Bishop has confirmed the Panel’s recommendation you can be sponsored for training. This will depend on you and the different ministry* you are to exercise in the church.
The DDO will discuss the different options and the training will normally be for two or three years. It may be full-time at a college, full-time on a mixed mode course or part-time on a non-residential course.
Do I have to undergo Theological Training before I’m ordained a Priest?
If the Church recognises your sense of call to be a priest, you will be given training before you are ordained – and then you will continue to receive training and formation as a curate. There will also be opportunities for further development throughout your ministry.
The purpose of training is to equip you for a ministry in which you are continually learning.
Throughout their working life, each priest experiences considerable growth in their skills, experiences considerable growth in their and situation calls upon and teaches different skills. It’s a demanding experience!
During the discernment period, you’ll probably be encouraged to do some kind of theological learning and exploration of different styles of ministry and worship during the phase leading up to attending your Bishops’ Advisory Panel.
Once you’ve been recommended for ordination formation and theological training, your diocesan director of ordinands will help you find the best theological college or course for you, taking into account your previous experience and family commitments.
What is BAP (Bishop Advisory Panel)?
When those tasked with discerning your vocation to ordained ministry at a local and diocesan level think the time is right, they’ll ask your bishop to sponsor you for a Bishops’ Advisory Panel, where the national level of selection takes place. This is where candidates are selected to go forward for training as a priest.
These panels are held throughout the year, and are arranged by the Ministry Division of the Church of England. They normally last from Monday to Wednesday, and you’ll be expected to stay over for the whole time.
At a panel, you are likely to meet up to 15 other men and women also going forward for discernment, plus a total of 6 bishops’ advisers and a Bishops’ Advisory Panel secretary from the Ministry Division. (the advisers, drawn from all over the country, are appointed by their bishops and trained by the Ministry Division).
What happens before the BAP Panel?
Several months normally go by between being sponsored by your diocese and your panel. You’ll be asked to fill in a detailed registration form, and to provide the names of some referees.
You’ll also be asked to produce a ‘written reflection’ of between 500 and 750 words, on an aspect of mission and evangelism related to your own experience and to which you feel drawn as part of your calling.
Your Diocesan Direction of Ordinands (DDO) will send your paper work to the Ministry Division, which in turn will send you a booklet entitled Going to a Bishops’ Advisory Panel, explaining in details what will be expected of you.
What happens at the BAP Panel?
At the panel, you’ll experience:
Three interviews with Bishops’ advisers, which will focus on the criteria for selection;
- A presentation (which you’ll have prepared beforehand) of up to five minutes on a topic of your choice but relating to an aspect of one of the criteria for selection;
- A group discussion, which involves facilitating as well as participating in a discussion group;
- A personal inventory, in which you’ll be asked to respond in writing to a series of questions based on the criteria for selection;
- A pastoral exercise in which you’ll be asked to respond in writing to a complex pastoral situation.
These will help the Bishops’ advisers to help to know you as a person, and will show them the ways in which you meet the criteria for selection.
What happens after the Panel?
When the panel is over, the Bishops’ advisers will send their recommendations back to your sponsoring bishop, with whom the decision about your future rests, in the form of a report. The response of the bishops’ advisers will take one of three forms:
Recommended for training: the way is open for you to start your training.
Conditionally recommended for training: This means that certain conditions need to be fulfilled before you can enter training.
Not recommended for training: if this is the case, then reasons will be given. This is not a denial of your calling to Christian service and witness-but a call to do that in ways other than ordained ministry. Your Diocesan Director of Ordinands and vocations advisers will help you to explore other ways of responding to your calling to serve God.
What does theological training entail?
Training usually lasts for 2 or 3 years, depending on your previous academic training and age. It can be full-time and residential, part-time and non-residential, or a mixture of two.
The Church of England has a variety of theological colleges, which offers full-time training course. It also has a national network of theological courses offering part-time study – this is mainly for older candidates.
People training for ordained pioneer ministry will do a mixture of residential and non-residential training, often whilst deployed as a lay worker in a local church.
Who pays for my training?
Candidates will never be prevented from doing their training through lack of funding. Training grants are available from central church funds, and your diocesan director of ordinands will explain in detail how your training will be financed.
Further training opportunities–and grants to pursue them – are available throughout a priest’s working life
What is CURACY?
Part of your training, and your formation as a minister, is working as a curate – usually for around four years. Curates me regularly with others who are ordained the same time, to support each other and continue their studies.
How does a call to ordination fit with my call to be a partner? What will training and ministry mean for my family? What if I want to grow my family?
Exploring ordination could mean big changes for your family, and its natural that you will have all sorts questions.
There are thousands of clergy families up and down the country, all doing things differently to navigate family whilst serving God as members.
To show you what’s possible, we’ve gathered stories of some of the many incredible people who are living out their calling to be both a parent and an ordained minister in the Church of England.