Priest candidates have a wealth of experience and reading to tap into before they go to a Stage Two Panel (formerly Bishops’ Advisory Panel). However, because we are still few in number, and many places don’t have much understanding of the diaconate, there are precious few resources to help diaconal candidates to prepare.
The renewed process for discernment is held across two Stages, the first being Carousel Conversations that primarily takes place online via Zoom within a day, and the second a Stage 2 Panel that is face to face over two days.
In line with this blog’s mission of finding or creating resources where there are none, a number of deacons who have recently been recommended for training or are recently ordained swap their experiences in a way they hope will be helpful and practical.
WHAT I LEARNED AT STAGE TWO PANEL (BAP)
- Be yourself! Always be natural. Let the advisers see the real person
- Remember that you are not in competition with others (its not like a job interview!) so support one another
- Listen to all instructions about worship, mealtimes etc given in the introductory session
- Candidates won’t get the same questions, as these will be tailor-made for individuals
- Don’t stereotype assessors: they are all different although all are working towards a common goal, which is to discover God’s calling to you
- Worth reposting this comment from the Diocese of Leeds vocations team: “One of the biggest concerns BAPs have is ensuring that someone has the relationships and prayer life to sustain them in ministry. “
- When asked a question, don’t try and second-guess what the selector might want you to say. You’re not trying to get through an exam!
- Always have a bash at an answer: dig deep and be as honest as possible. Patch together what you know that seems relevant but if you don’t know, just say so
- 3 advisors asked me “why deacon and not priest?” and “why not lay ministry?” There wouldn’t have been much point in attending the panel if I hadn’t thought that through! **(see below)
- I wonder if many of us have a sense that a deacon is what we are and have always been? If you do feel like that, then that will give you plenty to talk about but be prepared to give concrete, practical examples of the ways in which you see this working itself out in your attitudes and activities
- Be prepared to pray for those you meet and don’t compare yourself with anyone else
- I found I needed to look interested by sitting forward in discussion. I sat back and listened to others to allow them opportunity to be heard too and the comment was that I looked disinterested when in fact I joined in and was very interested!
- Definitely be yourself. Enjoy it . . . lots of interesting people to meet. You will be tired afterwards so plan how you will get home
- Believe in yourself and trust in God – if you are being obedient to God’s call he will be with you. You’re unique and God calls you as you are
- My BAP group exercise featured a lot of current affairs questions so I was glad I had prepared by reading ‘The Week’ magazine. I found a good phrase to use in 1:1s is “let me give you an example of that” (provided you have them!) to stop yourself being too abstract!
- I needed to take my time over the pastoral care exercise, to read and think about it. I was advised to use the Action Reflection cycle for it and that really helped me think through what was happening, what scripture was relevant and how I could respond. For the discussion after your presentation be prepared to really lead this. Think of some extra prompts as well as your initial question which you can use if you need to, and of course ensure you bring in anyone quiet and kindly move on from anyone hogging it!
- Take an easy book to read or something else that will help you unwind. And it is ok to say ‘I don’t know ‘ in the interviews rather than flanneling, the selectors are looking for potential and what inspires you, not perfection
- Be friendly with other candidates and sociable but leave time for rest and reflection. One interview or part may not go well or as you would like but do not let it affect the rest
- Before you go to BAP, check out with your DDO what pastoral support there is in place, should you not be recommended
- First, last and all the way through: pray and make sure you have lots of people praying for you. Their prayers and support will give you strength
**If you’re stuck, take a look at these resources:
Check out the distinctive deacon Formation Framework under the Discernment tab
See the pages on vocation and discernment on the national CofE website
These might be helpful: on diaconal distinctiveness:
Sarah Gillard-Faulkner on why she is not a priest: https://deaconstories.wordpress.com/2018/03/15/not-called-to-priesthood-deacon-sarah-gillard-faulkner/
Corinne Smith’s reflection on 20 years as a deacon: https://deaconstories.wordpress.com/2018/02/15/20-years-a-deacon-2/
There’s a collection of relevant Resources including Useful Books and Papers: see the drop-down menu at the top of the blog
especially Paul Avis’s paper on the diaconate as a ‘flagship ministry‘ and Rosalind Brown on ‘theological underpinnings.’ All Rosalind’s stuff is really helpful and relevant – read Being a Deacon Today. Also read the Mission and Ministry of the Whole Church and For Such a Time as This. If you get through these then you’ll have an outline idea of diaconal theology.
And remember – God is always with you, loves and values you and will guide you in his way for you, whatever the outcome.