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End of the panel: glad that’s over

I returned home earlier this evening from my three days of ‘institutional torture’ (as my vicar describes it); better known as my Bishop’s Advisory Panel or ‘Selection Conference’ as it used to be known. All I can say right now is that a. I am very glad it is over and b. I think I did as well as I could do.

The three days passed quickly and on one level, I did enjoy my time there. The atmosphere was very positive and generally affirming and, given that all 16 candidates there were in the same boat, everyone was rooting for each other and genuinely encouraging.

On day one, there was a quickfire ‘Personal Inventory’ in which we had 40 minutes to answer about 30 odd questions on all sorts of subjects. It basically meant bullet points and short phrases. The idea is that the selectors pick up on what you wrote in your interviews so it is mostly about getting good ideas down to unpack later. The biggest problem I had with it was using a pen non-stop for 40 minutes. I think the only thing I use a pen for regularly these days is signing my name (and pin numbers are putting paid to that). Writing for that long, given my cack-handed style anyway, almost left me in agony.

At the end of day one, we were given a pastoral situation to deal with to which we had to respond with a letter. I am not at liberty to tell you what the situation was – they ask us to keep them quiet so that future candidates are not tipped off. Suffice to say that I’d be glad never to have to deal with such a situation when I am in ministry. I did what I could in the letter and felt it was alright but probably wouldn’t help anyone involved on reflection!

The three interviews were by far the hardest. Although they started the whole thing by affirming that they were there to help and to affirm God’s call and not to trip you up, the interviews certainly felt that way for at least some of the time. Tough questions abounded and they seemed to try and needle you on one or two points to see how you’d react.

Again, I felt that I did okay and only had one car crash moment where I started talking about my experiences with ECUSA through work and the whole gay bishop debate. As I started talking about it, I realised it was a bad idea and needed to stop but by then it was half-way out of my mouth and too late to do anything about it. Naturally, the selector then pursued me on the issue but I felt like I dealt with it okay and gave her an honest answer.

My vicar wisely said that all you can do is be yourself. Indeed, it’s the best thing to do if you want them to be able to truly try to discern whether you are indeed called or not. I felt like I was myself, that I was honest and true to myself and to how I see God. I will leave it to their judgement and discernment as to what they make of that.

I actually feel quite peaceful about it. It strikes me that these selectors have been doing this job for years. They have probably seen it all… and then some. I trust their judgement and that God will work through them to either confirm my call if He is truly in this or not as the case may be.

I just face a weird week now while they know the answer they have reached and we don’t. Roll on Easter.

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