I attended BAP at Shallowford House, Stone, Staffordshire between 14-16 May 2012. BAP is the conference mechanism used by the CofE to discern whether Candidates offering for Ordained Ministry and sponsored by their Diocesan Bishop, meet the Ordination Criteria.
The panel is organised with 16 candidates attending, split into two syndicates. Six Assessors are appointed, three to each syndicate. The Ministry Division administrator for Ordained Ministry attends as the Panel Secretary.
The Assessors cover three main areas; Vocation, Pastoral and Educational. They assess against several of the nine criteria for Ordination, with a necessary overlap for some criteria. For example, Vocation impinges on all of the other eight criteria.
The journey to Shallowford for me was 174 miles, with many candidates travelling much further. One flew in from the Diocese of Europe in Spain.
Shallowford house is a former country house, set in its own grounds, which was left to the Diocese of Lichfield about 60 years ago for use as a Retreat and Study Centre. The house, much modernised, retains its Victorian charm and the grounds are well kept, with lovely gardens and fields to walk in, one of which has a Labyrinth cut into the grass. It is a peaceful setting, which despite the presence of the West Coast main line railway running past it, seems in some way, to have retained its aura of a country house.
Meeting the candidates and assessors was a joy. Every single one was enthused and very aware of why we were there and the significance of the deliberations over the three days.
Day one of the panel consisted of settling in, briefings and worship and a lively exercise in getting to know each other, ending at about 9 pm. Part of this was the completion of a Personal Inventory, which was challenging to complete in the 40 minutes allocated.
Day two of the panel commenced a routine of Worship, Meals, Delivering Presentations, Chairing a discussion on the presentation (and contributing to the discussion in turn). Followed by one to one interviews with each of the three syndicate assessors on their respective subject areas. In my case, I slightly abandoned the script for my presentation, but was able to bring out the missed points in the discussion phase. All of us in the syndicate joined in with supporting and encouraging our contemporaries, by being attentive and engaging in the discussion(s) making the process, while a little pressured by time constraints, enjoyable and productive. One assessor, observing, saying that they really wanted to join in, but had to remain neutral – which is I believe a compliment to the quality of both presentations and discussions.
Interviews: After lunch we moved to individual interviews, I had one (Vocation) on the the second day and a further two on the third day. I had gone with the Bishop’s words in my mind. “Not to much preparation and rehearsal” and “concentrate on one or two things” and “be yourself and enjoy the process”. I did exactly that. Whether or not I prepared enough, will not become clear until the results are announced late next week – but I was challenged by each interview, particularly the one on Vocation. I found all of them enjoyable, and actually found myself laughing at some of the things I shared with the assessors.
Pastoral Exercise: We also had to complete a pastoral exercise over the three days, which involved writing a letter of not more than 500 words on a set pastoral situation. The exercise challenged me, but I thanked God for the insights of the preparation of a diocesan panel and one day of pre-BAP activity earlier this year, prior to BAP.
The people. Overall, everyone was fantastic, both assessors and fellow candidates. There was much humour about, as well as story telling as we recounted to each other our individual journeys, each were unique, and each were inspirational. They came from vastly different backgrounds from someone already in Lay Pioneer Ministry to those involved in Fresh Expressions and New Wine arrangements, it really helps to widen the perspective of someone involved in parochial lay ministry and perhaps even gives insights into how future vocation may change and take you.
The Worship was organised and provided by the assessors. We had a compline, two HC, One MP and one Day prayer during the 2.5 days together. The choice of hymns, Psalms etc was inspired and corporate worship, despite the variety of traditions was wonderful. Time was plentiful for quiet prayer, for walking the grounds and labyrinth and to just ‘be’.
Social. There was a bar open, but I found myself so tired each evening, finishing at 9 pm, that I didn’t avail myself of it. But, we had ample opportunities to socialise during meal times and free-time between interviews and on the many, useful tea/coffee breaks provided in the programme.
Atmosphere. The overall atmosphere was one of prayerfulness, mixed with some nervousness from some (including me) and trepidation on what to expect from the interviews in particular. There was pressure of time, but the reality is that most pressure is self generated by candidates upon themselves. But humour abounded and was evident from everyone. I actually think that the church has got this right, because having heeded the Bishop’s words, I actually enjoyed the process.
We all await with baited breath the outcome of the panel, which will be announced in a week or so. We can expect to be given the verdict by our DDO or Bishop. I hope and pray that I am recommended for Training, but know that it’s God’s will that is the overriding authority. I pray that it any vocation that I have is discerned in the wisdom and knowledge that I know the assessors possessed.