Fr Ian and Admos from our congregation are Bishops’ advisors on panels giving advice on whether candidates should be recommended for training to priesthood or not.
Here is a postcard from such a panel from a candidate. Guess who!
The trains rumble past every 4 minutes all day, and seemingly, all night. Where am I? The Railway Hotel? Elwood from the Blues Brother’s boarding house? Nope. On a Bishops’ Advisory Panel at Shallowford House, Staffordshire.
The panel is two and half days of tests, interviews and other means of selecting people, or not, for training for the Priesthood in the Church of England. The sessions are intense and the stakes are high: some people have spent decades discerning a vocation, others have given up a great deal to pursue their calling.
That said, most of the time is spent… sitting around.
On a visit lasting two days I must have completed 40 laps of the garden, just trying to kill the great stretches of time between interviews. Despite polite and interesting chatter, the free time only adds to the tension and emotional charge that underlies the whole experience. Everyone is observed at every meal, every minute that one of the ‘advisors’ is in the room.
The building is pleasant, the spaces and times to pray and worship are enriching. The bar, down in the cellar, is a much appreciated feature each evening after supper.
It feels a little like being trapped in a surreal world akin to the TV classic ‘The Prisoner’ or the kind of house party a mysteriously absent host throws for a group of strangers in order to kill them off one by one! Everything and everyone is very nice and comfortable, but one is aware of constant observation and that there is another, uncontrollable purpose being worked out. – no honestly, it’s not that sinister! Just a bit odd.
In the end, the key is to relax and enjoy the experience. That is the only way one is able to really ‘be yourself’ and that is the most important thing of all.