So, what should I know about BAP?

Hello!
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. 

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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.)

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Other blog posts on BAP:

Bryony Taylor -What’s it like to go to a BAP?

Because God Calls- To BAP, BAPing, I BAPed – encountering the verb of selection for ordination!

Liz Cutterbuck- So you’re going to a BAP.

Hope that you found this all useful!

Peace and Joy.

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So, you want to be a priest?

Fantastic!  No matter what the outcome of your exploration it is one that will certainly deepen your relationship with God. You may have heard ‘the calling’ as a voice thundering from the clouds, or as a slow and gentle push towards something different. There are many roads whist exploration vocation, and I hope that his gives you a little help at the start of that road.

This blog post is written with the structures of the CofE in mind, although some of its principles could be applied to ministry in other churches.

Get Praying.
Seems like a slightly obvious tip, but prayer is the one sustaining factor in a world filled with chaos. And so you will need it in your journey every step of the way.

Although in the beginning your vocation will be all you can think about, make sure that it doesn’t get in the way of your first vocation- to be a follower of Christ.  Sometimes when all we can think about is getting ordained, we miss the fact that our relationship with Christ needs to be strong in order to better fulfil our purpose. I compare it to getting married, but forgetting the reason that you were getting married in the first place!
There is no way you will able to survive the vocations process if you are not turning to God in prayer every step of the way!

Share the news!
Your first port of call should be your Parish Priest or Chaplain. They will be able to give you some good advice on how they came to Ordination, even if that was a few years ago! The emotions and processes will still be similar, and their experience and advice will be valuable. After that they should be able to refer you to your local Diocesan Director of Ordinands or DDO who will take the process from then on.

To have the support of friends/family will also be important. A good place to start is by telling others so that they may confirm your sense of calling. When I decided to share the news with my best friend all she could do was remark how fantastic she thought I would be- this was a much needed encouragement and boost!

Do Some Reading.
You’re DDO will be able to give you some recommended reading in relation to vocation and the different areas of the 9 Criteria. Personally I would recommend reading a good number of books on a variety of topics, and don’t be afraid to tell your DDO when a book really doesn’t take your fancy! Different books with suit different people better. A book that really engaged with me might not be helpful to you and vice versa.  Its good practice to think about how each book you read helps you to think about your calling, because you are likely to get asked about what you are reading alot!

I would most recommend The Life and Work of a Priest by John Pritchard. Its fantastic as a basic primer to all things priestly.   Though other good titles are things like Called or Collared by Francis Dewar  and The Christian Priest Today by Michael Ramsey.   You can find a good reading list from the CofE here.

Pick up good habits.
Get yourself a Spiritual Director. That can seem like a bizarre concept if you have never had one before, but they are essential to everyone who seeks to live in Gods service. They will help you to unpack your spiritual life and help you to grow in ways that you cannot see for yourself. Your parish priest or DDO will be able to help you find someone suitable. And don’t be afraid to ‘shop around’. Because Spiritual Directors deal with such personal spiritual matters it is important that the ‘chemistry’ between you is right. You should feel able to be honest with this person and able to take on their advice.

Start Daily Prayer.  It does not come easily to most people. I really struggled with this. But it has been made so much easier with the invention of the Daily Prayer App.  As with trying to pick up any habit, you cannot expect to be praying Morning, Evening and Night prayer from tomorrow and it all to work.  Pick one form of daily prayer and start to incorporate it into your prayer life, and then slowly build from there.

Keep a log of how things are going.  As someone who naturally enjoys journalling this seemed like an obvious thing to me. It makes for a great tool for self reflection. I cannot tell you how fond I am of reading through journal entries when I first started this journey and seeing the progression. To keep a record of all the highs and lows of the vocational process is surely not a bad thing. Blogging is a great way of having somewhere instantly accessible  to keep all your thoughts throughout this process. But I realise that this may not be a helpful tool for everyone.

Lastly…
Remember that everyones journey through the process is different. For some it will take a year, for some it will take more like 3 years. Just because your journey has some bumps in the road it doesn’t make it any less. Also remember that each diocese will do things slightly differently, trust in the process of yours.

Peace and Joy.