If you have found yourself here, then you are probably looking to go to a Bishops Advisory Panel or BAP! A BAP is the process that the Church Of England uses to discern if an individual is suited for ordained ministry.
A good primer to read before going is ‘Going to a Bishops Advisory Panel’ which is produced by the CofE. It also gives you a good idea of what the timetable is like for the days whilst you are at BAP. I don’t want to go into all the details in this blog post (I might write a separate account of my experience at another time) but wanted to give some advice to those who are preparing themselves to go to BAP.
Make prayer the centre.
Tell people, and ask for their prayers. Knowing that there is a community of people praying for you is really reassuring. Very few of my friends really understand what the process is like, but by posting a simple Facebook status I found that there was a flood of well wishes and prayers. I also appreciated having the prayers of people I had only met through twitter.
In terms of prayer whilst you are there, there are varied services so you will probably find something to suit. Don’t feel that you have to go to everything, but they are really useful. Like many others I found that praying on my own felt harder, so having corporate worship was really needed.
Yes it is intense, but try to enjoy it.
Most of my friends who have been recommended (and myself included) say that they really enjoyed being at BAP. It can feel a bit overwhelming when you feel like you are being watched and judged, but try to take everything in your stride. The other candidates will be one of your best resources. Have fun talking to them and sharing experiences. (The best conversations I had took place in the pub!) Be open to be changed and challenged by your different theologys and worship styles. I had a great encounter with someone on the topic of communion before confirmation, and it really opened my eyes to how diverse and wonderful the CofE is.
Be Honest. Be Yourself.
Going to BAP felt a bit strange for me because we had recently suffered a family bereavement. I emailed my panel secretary beforehand so that everyone was aware that I might not be on top form. The Pastoral Advisor asked me how I was doing in my interview and I felt that I just had to be honest. She said that some people can be like getting blood from a stone, and that being able to be honest with her was really refreshing. The advisors will be able to see through you if you are trying to be someone you are not. So it is best to be honest and be yourself. If God has called you to ministry then he has called you worts and all! Obviously if something really is difficult then don’t feel you need to lay it all out on the table, but just be prepared that the advisors might ask tricky questions. (Especially about things mentioned in your paperwork!)
Take some comfort.
BAP can seem like such a strange and unusual environment. Because the BAP locations are retreat houses, they are both comforting and alien because of what is taking place there. I had read somewhere that it was a good idea to take a boxset of something familiar for those times when you are having some down time in your room. I did this and it was good to just have some background noise on whilst I was writing my pastoral letter. I’d also recommend taking chocolate/snacks! Whilst the food is amazing, sometimes a little chocolate and a cup of tea are really needed!
Post is just as important as the pre!
When it is all over you will feel yourself relax and go into a kind of recover mode. I found having a little train journey to home very useful for being able to mull it all over. The time that it takes for you to process everything is surprising. I made a ‘post BAP’ phone call to my DDO the next day which I found really useful. But nothing really prepares you for the wait afterwards. You have to wait 10 days for the news, and it will be given to you in various ways depending on your diocese. Try to keep busy! You will naturally think it all over a bit too much, so it is best after that initial rest to just get back to normal.
Remember that there are people out there who do survive it. I know when you are anticipating BAP it seems like it you have no clue what will happen. But as long as you read all the material given to you, then there is not all that much more prep you can do! The reason it all seems so shrouded in mystery is because it needs to be a sacred process, not a test that someone has to ‘pass’. Whatever the outcome, be confident that it is Gods will for you at the time. (Even if it is that of a non recommendation.)
Other blog posts on BAP:
Hope that you found this all useful!
Peace and Joy.