Matchmaking (or finding a curacy)

Hazel Once training is complete, each trainee vicar is ordained as a deacon in the diocese where they will begin their curacy. A curacy usually lasts around three years and, as the Church of England website puts it, is “an opportunity to serve alongside an experienced vicar, putting into practice the knowledge gained from your course and learning from them as you prepare for your own ministry.”

Last summer I was involved in the process of being ‘matched’ with a church for my curacy. It found it was rather like being set up on a blind date! 

Step One: You meet with your matchmaker (also known as a Diocesan Director of Ordinands or DDO) to discuss what kind of thing you might be looking for. There are various items of paperwork that go along with this conversation including a sort of ‘personal profile’ with information about yourself. Your DDO gets to work.

Step Two:  The DDO calls you up one day to discuss a potential possibility. You are given a name and a very brief profile of the church and the online research begins. Starting with a quick google (obviously) you assess the church website first before delving into their social media accounts (if they have them). Do they seem friendly? Can they take a good selfie? All important considerations at this stage.

Step Three: You must arrange an initial meeting. Come away from the meeting and endlessly obsess over whether you talked too much, had food stuck in your teeth, asked enough questions, answered enough of their questions, etc. If, like me, you are a deep thinker, you will spend a lot of time after this initial meeting reflecting and praying about them and you and the potential for a good relationship.

Step Four: Introduce them to your nearest and dearest. For me, this would be my husband and I appreciate the analogy of the blind date somewhat falls apart with the introduction of a spouse, but this step is important if this is going to be the place that your family will also be considering calling their home.

Step Five: The awkward bit. Who tells who that they like the other one first? The age-old problem of not wanting to seem too keen in case it’s not reciprocated… thankfully, in our case, both parties were interested in making this possibility a reality and the matchmaking had worked!

The final stage in this particular process is the official announcement (somewhat akin to making your relationship ‘Facebook-official’) which involves a variety of additional official paperwork going back and forth. Watch this space!

 

The ‘I Don’t Wanna Run’ run

Hazel: I recently found out I have a place in the Great North Run (a half marathon that takes place down the road from me in Newcastle in September). While I have several months to train and prepare myself for this, I have found, getting up to go for a run in the cold and darkness of winter in Durham is very difficult. It is hard work for my body, but perhaps more importantly, doing a long run is hard work for my mind.

I use the Nike+ running app to help me train and it offers a selection of pre-prepared workouts where you can stick your headphones in and listen to a coach offer motivation for your whole run. These workouts are all named and my favourite, by far, is the “I Don’t Wanna Run Run”. In it, the coach offers empathy for why finding motivation is hard, he talks through all the reasons why we might not want to run, and then he unceasingly offers encouragement which keeps you going.

I know that training for ordination isn’t exactly the same as training for a half marathon. But as the year has really got under way, it has certainly felt a bit like it at times. It feels quite tough to be academically assessed on your ability to offer pastoral care, or your preaching. It’s challenging to be around people who know a lot more about the Anglican Church than you do. It’s tough to balance married life, placement commitments, spiritual development, academic work, college life, social interactions and half-marathon training.

I thought it would be like going back to university, and it’s hard to explain why, but it’s just not. Suddenly it makes sense when Hebrews tells us to “run with perseverance the race marked out for us”.

Of course there’s beauty in it too. Sometimes I find myself blown away by the beauty of Durham riverbanks as I run alongside it. And the unexpected glimpses of the cathedral at various corners along the way. And it is the same with college life. I am surrounded by inspirational people who have embraced both me and Sam. The topics I’ve covered in my essays have got my brain working overtime and in moments have brought me joy in understanding.

And so there are moments when I wish the Church of England had an “I Don’t Wanna Run Run” that I could listen to to get me through the daily stuff that feels challenging.

But then I remember we do! The Church of England doesn’t have ownership on this one. But the Church eternal has access to the ultimate coach. A coach who offers empathy, who we can talk things through with, who unceasingly offers us encouragement. And our coach isn’t a generic coach who says the same thing to each person. Our coach knows us, created us and loves us.

This lent I am taking up the practice of silent prayer again, which I learned during my time in the Community of St Anselm. I’m sure there will continue to be ups and downs and this won’t be the last time my motivation wavers. But God knows the plans he has for me and without the hard work of training, I know I couldn’t make it to the end of the race.

Term one at Cranmer Hall, Durham, is beginning

Hazel: I was a little busy at the time the first posts went out, so allow me to explain how I got here…

I grew up in a town called Altrincham in the South of Manchester. After finishing school I travelled to India to work in a school and the USA to work in a church. I then spent three very happy years at Durham University playing sport, making friends and coxing for the men’s university rowing squad. I graduated in Theology in 2014 and moved back home where I completed my level 2 counselling certificate, earned a bit of money and met a boy called Sam.

I gave all that up in September 2015 when I moved down to London to live in Lambeth Palace as a residential member of the first year of the Community of St Anselm. Part of that year involved a 30 day silent retreat (optionally, I should add) where you were encouraged to bring questions of discernment. It was at this point I began seriously considering the possibility of ordained ministry. This led me back to Manchester at the end of the year to do the Church of England Ministry Experience Scheme (CEMES).

There are four things worth saying about this year back in Manchester. Firstly, I worked in an inner city parish church in East Manchester (The Church of the Resurrection and St Barnabas) which I loved. Second, I was reunited with Sam who proposed in February 2017 and I said YES. Third, I completed my level 3 Counselling Qualification. And finally, I went through the discernment process with the Church of England ending in July with my Bishops Advisory Panel (BAP).

A week or so later I got a call from the Bishop of Manchester, David Walker, to tell me I had been recommended for ordination training. Hurrah! But this meant that August was a fairly packed month of moving out of the four bedroom vicarage I had been living in for the last year, finalising all the preparations for my wedding and saying goodbye to the church community that had embraced us so thoroughly.

We got married on 2 September which was an incredibly joy-filled day surrounded by friends and family. We left for our honeymoon to an island in the Maldives the following day. This was a glorious two weeks of paradise. Just a week or so after our return we moved up to Durham (a return home for me; a new adventure for Sam) for me to begin ordination training at Cranmer Hall.

Unfortunately due to our time constraints we didn’t manage to find anywhere to live before the wedding. Thankfully, my kind mother spent a whole day making phone calls while we were on our honeymoon to find us a flat to live in. On the downside you can probably get from one side of the flat to the other in about two steps (even with my short legs!). On the plus side, it is completely flexible for us to move out whenever we find something more suitable. Our spare time at the moment is taken up with looking for places to rent!

Sam is continuing with his work in Manchester. He has an agreement till December that he can work two days each week from home (as in, Durham) and then he will commute the other days. We have both been feeling slightly daunted by this but so far it hasn’t been too bad. We’ve joined our local gym, caught up with a few friends including my sister in Newcastle and gone on a couple of riverbank runs!

I have spent the last week or so in induction talks and I think I am finally starting to get my head around what I will actually be doing over the next two years and how the course structures work. I’m really excited about the modules I have chosen – Forgiveness in Pastoral Ministry and Theological Approaches to Spiritual Direction.

All in all, we are happy to be here. Both of us are looking forward to finding a place we can properly move into, not least because we want to make the most of the incredible things from our John Lewis gift list currently stored back in Manchester! Generally, life is good, we are happy to be here and happy to be married.

Hazel, Durham

Introducing Hazel who has been exploring a call to ordination through the Church of England Ministry Experience Scheme.

Hazel was recommended for ordination training after her BAP (Bishop’s Advisory Panel).

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