I have discovered to my dismay that, although I thought I had now gone through all the boxes of my late father’s archives, sorted them and got a handle on what was left … I had forgotten about the boxes which had been stashed in another bedroom.
So I started on those today, and came across a letter I wrote to him in 1988 when I was attending Selection Conference to see if I would be recommended for ordination training.
By the time you get to the Conference, you’ve had numerous chats with your vicar, your vocations advisers, your Diocesan Director of Ordinands: in my case the diocese concerned threw in an extra, a Bishop’s Panel, just to add to the fun.
If you pass all those you get sent to the 3-day Conference. My letter begins:
By the time I leave here today, I will have attended 6 services, had 4 half-hour interviews, spent 2 and a half hours on a written exercise, taken part in 3 group discussions and been secretary to one group, had chats with 21 people (20 of whom were total strangers) and been scared stiff throughout – all on 0.01% of sleep and 120% proof coffee!’
I go on to give more details, especially the exchange with the Conference Chairman. I vividly remember sitting down in his room, and he began
“Now this is a really silly idea, isn’t it, Gill. I really don’t know why you’re here. You’ve got a husband who doesn’t know where he’s going” (at the time Hub was looking for a curacy or apprenticeship with an experienced vicar), “- 4 kids – it’s all quite crazy.”
I remember thinking ‘This is like riding a bucking bronco. I have to stay on if I possibly can. He’s trying to shake me off course.’ So I said: “Absolutely bats, I agree”!
Since that time I’ve acted as a vocations adviser myself – in fact, still do – and have heard various experiences of Selection Conference. It became clear that mine was particularly tough that year – it was before women could be priested, so I think the powers-that-were, were being more than usually difficult. Fewer than half of us were recommended, and most were men.
But I was, to my surprise. Which goes to show, sometimes it is just as well to be honest when you have an aggressive interviewer!
But behind it all were the steady prayers of my father. I know I have them still.