The first inklings that Something Might Be Going On surfaced for me in late 2011, but it wasn’t until after Easter in 2012 that I spoke formally to anyone. I’d had a few exchanges with a wise friend, who had given me the key test to apply: try to ignore the ideas, and if they go away, they’re probably not from God. If they don’t go away, and the nagging inkling takes up residence, you might be on to something.
I knew a vicar in another Diocese who is a DDO; he met with me on an unofficial basis, agreed I wasn’t going quite mad, and gave me a copy of the Criteria for Selection for Ordained Ministry in the Church of England (pdf here).
I didn’t dare look at the document in public. They felt too dangerous, and daunting. I couldn’t be seen to be reading them – who on earth do I think I am? And almost the first thing I was told to do by several people was to read Michael Ramsey’s The Christian Priest Today – obviously that could only be read in private, too – not one for a train journey. (Actually I didn’t find that book nearly so provoking as John Pritchard’s the Life & Work of a Priest). So all of a sudden, I had this dangerous document and a whole new set of books to read… Sitting in the Starbucks round the corner from my office, people-watching, working my way through various books on vocation: what a way to spend a summer’s lunchbreaks!
I was thinking recently about that initial piece of paper and how I wouldn’t have been surprised if the Criteria had actually bitten my fingers off. Now, the criteria feel like old friends – a set of pointers I have learned to live with. Like lots of the process, I grew into it. Language that felt odd, or scary, now feels familiar. I suppose if life is a tapestry these threads start to be woven in as the colour of the work changes – looks odd at first, but after a while enough new threads and ideas have been incorporated that the new colour looks quite normal.