THINKING HOW TO SERVE
Giles Pinnock has been to a recent conference about vocation
When the flyer for the Original Integrity Vocations Fund (OIVF) vocations conference arrived with New Directions, I was immediately interested. I had been contemplating a nagging sense of vocation for some time; most actively since our Vicar, Fr Michael Wright, had come to dinner. Walking him to his car, I said: 'Father, I'd like to come and talk to you about ordination.' I had surprised myself. I had a rule: I would not approach anyone about vocation; I would wait for someone else to suggest it - and I had broken my rule.
I was contemplating non-stipendiary ministry (NSM). An interview with the Diocesan Director of Ordinands (DDO) was arranged. We discussed my background, my wife's background (both of our fathers are Priests) and that I thought I was called to NSM. He visited our flat in North Oxford and talked to my wife, Mary, and me, and left with the comment: 'I'm not sure that you have an NSM vocation'. I mulled and worried about what he had said - which is where OIVF comes in.
The OIVF conference was for men contemplating full-time ministry who could not accept the ordination of women as Priests. Mary said that it looked interesting and why didn't I go? I said that it wasn't really aimed at me - I was thinking principally about NSM. However, Mary had said several times that she thought that I would be very frustrated as an NSM. Sitting at my PC, publishing a news service on the internet in a striped shirt and spotty tie, when my vocation was to do God's work in a dog-collar would drive me mad.
I waited for September 4th to arrive and went to the first evening, uncertain of what I would find. Other Forward in Faith vocations conferences have been for 18-24 year olds - would I find myself in the company of much younger men, at a much different stage of life and with quite different thoughts and concerns? Alternatively, would I find the eccentricity with which our integrity is lampooned? I found neither.
Fr Tim Bugby addressed the first session - on vocation. He made the point, repeated throughout the weekend, that vocation is God's call, not a personal ambition. There is no shortage of vocations, rather a shortage of those listening. He also discussed the Advisory Board on Ministry (ABM). It is far from perfect, but it is what we have. We have to trust that the Spirit moves through it and that, in respect of ourselves, it will arrive at a proper decision. My enthusiasm, that had begun to flag over the previous couple of months of internal haggling, began to be re-kindled.
There followed the first of three Masses celebrated by Bishops of our integrity - this by Bishop Broadhurst. Supper followed and then a session on 'The Deacon's Year' by Fr Shaun Richards. Fr Shaun's enthusiasm for the Faith and ministry is evident and convincing; of all that he said, one phrase echoes with me repeatedly: 'The first time I walked down the street in clericals, it was a bit odd, but it felt that, for the first time in my life, I was doing absolutely the right thing.'
On Saturday, a BCP Communion in memory of the late Colonel John Hall and Morning Prayer was followed by an extremely useful and practical session on the selection process, addressed by Fr Rodney Schofield, DDO of Bath and Wells. One could ask the questions one might not want to ask of one's own DDO, and Fr Rodney explained what was being looked for by ABM's selectors and what this meant in practice.
A session with Fr Chris Pearson on the care of the sick was followed by Sung Mass, celebrated by Bishop Barnes. Fr Chris's talk reminded me how important it is for all Christians to be attended by a Priest at times of need, and that Priests must administer the sacraments to God's people always and everywhere - at hospital bed-sides and in the middle of the nigh t -not only in beautiful buildings in beautiful vestments amid clouds of incense and the sound of sanctus bells.
Exposition and Benediction on Saturday afternoon made me realise the purpose of the apparent 'white space' in the timetable. Time for reflection was vital to absorb what was being discussed.
Sunday started with Morning Prayer, followed by 'The Priest's Day', by Fr Simon Ellis. Fr Simon talked about the practicalities of ministry, and that one can do no more than to offer God's love to whoever passes through one's care - however fleetingly.
A plenary discussion followed, led by Canon Robin Ellis, Archdeacon of Plymouth, and addressed by Bishop Richardson, who celebrated and preached at Mass that day. Throughout the weekend, there was a great sense of the need for traditional Anglo-Catholics to express our prophetic message. Bishop Richardson reminded us that one in seven Anglicans is a Nigerian and that the Bishop of Newark's historicism does not go down well in much of the two-thirds world, where Anglicanism is strong, and that our message must not be despaired of simply because we live in the liberal, secular, post-modern West.
My thoughts moved on more in those two days than they had in the preceding two or three months. The opportunity to discuss with other men who were, or who had been, at the same stage as me was invaluable. Recently, I saw my DDO and discussed my thoughts and the help that the OIVF conference had been. Hopefully, I shall be seeing the Bishop in the next month or so and attending a selection conference in the New Year. My intention is now firmly full-time training, followed by stipendiary ministry; a clarity of mind for which, in large part, I have the attendants, speakers and organisers of the OIVF conference to thank. I ask for your prayers for myself and for the other men who attended the conference I found so helpful, and hope that there will be many more like it.
Giles Pinnock attended the recent Conference for ordinands organized by OIVF and Forward in Faith.
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