1. Who should I talk to first about my Vocation? – The first person you ought to consider discussing this with is your Parish Priest as your Parish Priest is likely to know not only you very well, but also the process and the next steps that you should make in your pilgrimage to priesthood.
2. I thought Priests were Roman Catholic – The Church of England has always maintained its Catholic Identity and in line with others has committed itself to the threefold ministry of Bishops, Priests and Deacons. Often priests working in parishes are referred to as Vicars, but this is a specific role on par with Rectors, and Chaplains. All are priests but some may be the Rector or the Hospital Chaplain or the Vicar/Parish Priest.
3. Is it well paid? – There are two distinct forms of Ordained Ministry in the Church of England.
(a) Stipendiary – this is where the priest is paid a stipend enough to feed, house and clothed sufficient is provided to ensure that no priest is ever destitute but a stipend is not the same as a salary and certainly anybody considering ordination should not do so on the basis of the amount paid.
(b) Self Supporting (Non Stipendiary) – As the name suggests this form of ministry is undertaken usually on a part time basis where the priest undertakes to support themselves financially and gives of their time voluntary to the Church. Sometimes housing is provided and always the expenses of office are reimbursed.
4. Can you get married? – The Church of England Ministry is open to those who are single and married but not at present to those in same sex marriages. There is a process for those who are divorced and those in Civil Partnerships. But these issues are best dealt with on a personal basis as there are many variants and complications.
5. What age can you be ordained at? – Ever mindful of legislation the Church is subject to the Age Discrimination Legislation. The minimum age by Canon Law is 23 for a Deacon and 24 for a Priest, although there have been rare exceptions to this rule. Most dioceses whilst not having an absolute upper age limit would have to look realistically and balance the necessary training and related costs next to expected service.
6. Is the priesthood open to Men and Women? – The Church of England since 1992 has accepted both sexes into the priesthood. The Catholic Societies of the Church of England whilst wanting to support and celebrate the rich variety of gifts that both genders can contribute to ministry feel unable to support women’s priestly ordination.
7. How long will it take to be ordained? – Once again it is difficult to give a definitive answer as everybody’s journey will be different but in all honesty this is no quick fix as part of the process of selection is endurance. Ordinarily from first enquiry to selection you would think of at least a year, most probably longer. The training itself can be between 2 and 3 years depending on whether it is residential or part time. Once ordained those looking to priestly ministry will expect a year’s diaconal ministry.
8. Are there any specific educational requirements? – The Church is obviously looking for people who can cope with theological training. It would ordinarily expect younger candidates to have studied at University, but life experiences and professional qualifications are always viewed in the same light as academic qualifications.
9. How do you know you are called to be a priest? – Few would claim to have flashing lights and voices from God. Often priestly vocation begins with a gut feeling although some people can clearly articulate a guiding hand pointing them in the direction of priesthood. Anyone considering presenting themselves must be able to talk easily and convincingly about their call. Vocation to the priesthood begins with God and not with the Church’s need for more clergy or an individual trying to fill their spare time.
10. Does a priest work just one day a week? – This is the common misconception and the reality is all clergy stipendiary and self supporting minsters commit themselves to far more than one day. Priestly ministry is varied with many different components from pastoral work to practical business management. Preaching to teaching. It certainly is not a 9-5 and nor is it just one day a week.
11. Would a Traditional Catholic who is not convinced about women’s ministry be selected for training? – The Church of England is committed to a variety of different churchmanships from Evangelical to Catholic. Archbishop Justin feels passionately that the Church has room for Traditional Catholics to thrive and grow.