Die-hard Oasis fan.
Low sperm count.
Training to be a vicar. Obviously.
Matt Woodcock's frank, funny real-life diaries reveal what it was like for him to train as a vicar while struggling against all odds to become a father.
In them he lays bare his joys and struggles as he attempts to reconcile his calling as a vicar with his life as a party-loving journalist, footy-freak and incorrigible extrovert.
Becoming Reverend is a compelling and original account of how faith can work in the midst of a messy life, combining family, fertility, faith and friendship with the story of a divine - but unlikely - calling.
‘Jesus, A Pilgrimage’ by James Martin,
SJ (Harper One) 526pp, hbk
Father Martin’s book is a rich, multi-layered guide book. It is a travelogue, an account of a pilgrimage he, initially reluctantly, made to the Holy Land. It is also a guide to the life and ministry of Jesus, dealing sequentially with key moments in Christ’s life, and finally it is also an account of Father Martin’s own journey of discernment and spiritual growth, central to which is the discovery of his vocation as a priest.
As Father Martin explains in his introduction he has come to know Jesus through his academic studies, prayer, experience and pilgrimage. One of the great achievements of this book is the way in which these elements are woven together in a way that remains balanced and accessible.
Vocation is the central theme that underpins this exploration of place and person. In a powerful passage in chapter seven Father Martin builds on his reflections on the call of the first disciples by explaining his own growing sense of a vocation to the priesthood. The growing dissatisfaction with an occupation or lifestyle that he describes maybe a familiar experience for many as they begin the process of discernment. However, as Father Martin explains there are a multitude of ways in which we can be called, and if it is initially through dissatisfaction with the status quo then, if the call is from God, it will be followed by the hope of something new.
It’s little wonder that the themes in this book complement each other so well. All of Christian life is a response to the call to follow Jesus, and not just at a distance but to seek to draw ever nearer to him. The descriptions of the key locations found in the gospels create a backdrop which vividly links us through time to first century Palestine. Father Martin’s reflections on key gospel texts, drawing on Ignatian spirituality, encourage us to stand alongside, for example, Simon and Andrew at the Sea of Galilee as Jesus calls them. We are encouraged to contemplate what that event might mean for us. Like Simon and Andrew this might mean letting go of our own plans, even our livelihoods, and following a radically different path. However, as Father Martin contends, if we respond as Simon and Andrew did we will be allowing Christ to free us to be the people God has made us to be. That is one of the most powerful explanations of Christian vocation that I have read.
Assistant curate at Saint John’s Sevenoaks
Cowley, Ian. The Contemplative Minister: Learning to Lead from the Still Centre. Edited by Lisa Cherrett. 1 edition. The Bible Reading Fellowship, 2015.
Magdalene, Katy. I Think It’s God Calling: A Vocation Diary. 1 edition. Bible Reading Fellowship, 2015.
Percy, Emma. What Clergy Do: Especially When It Looks like Nothing. SPCK, 2014.
Ross-McNairn, Jonathon. Being a Curate: Stories of What It’s Really like. SPCK, 2014.
Smith, Magdalen. Steel Angels: The Personal Qualities of a Priest. SPCK, 2014.
Tomlin, Graham. The Widening Circle. SPCK, 2014.
On reading the Bible well
Adams, Edward. Parallel Lives of Jesus: Four Gospels - One Story. SPCK, 2012.
Barton, John. The Bible: The Basics. 1 edition. Routledge, 2010.
Hays, Richard. Reading Backwards. SPCK, 2015.
Taylor, Simon. How To Read The Bible. SPCK, 2015.
Wright, Tom. Why Read the Bible?: A Little Book of Guidance. SPCK, 2015.
Download pdf here
On Christian Priesthood
With chapters on “Religion”, “Mystery”, “Sacrifice”, “Priesthood”, ”Rite” and “Cure” this valuable book gives depth and meaning to some of the theology around what it means to be a priest in today’s church.
The Life and Work of a Priest
Written relatively recently, the Bishop of Oxford touches on some pertinent pastoral themes in this comprehensive guide to priestly ministry. Priesthood is described as both strategic presence and strategic action. +Pritchard believes in a lively and collaborative ministry.
The Essential Sermons
Austin Farrer was a prolific preacher in the period from the end of World War II to the emergence of a very different world in the 1960’s. This collection of sermons covers a wide range of fascinating subjects and provides excellent devotional reading for those discerning a vocation.
Being A Priest Today
This is now a classic series of writing looking at the root, shape and the fruit of the priestly life. Anyone thinking of the priesthood should give this book a read.
Priests of Jesus Christ Vol II
The last decade ended with a year for priests – called by Pope Benedict. The majority of texts in this collection are speeches or homilies given by the then Pope to the faithful. They contain some excellent reflective material on the road to exploration of a vocation to priesthood.
The Fire and the Clay
A range of thought provoking articles including an opening chapter which asks the question ‘Who is the real me?’
The book also looks at how it is possible to live together and learn from the love of God in today’s complex church.
There are a number of helpful societies and organisations that will provide useful resources for those considering ministry within the Church.
Please do look on the website of
The Additional Curates Society in Birmingham
The Church of England Ministry Division in London
The Church in Wales
The Association of Ordinands and Candidates for Ministry
The Church Pastoral Aid Society
The Religious Life
The Anglican Communities
The Orthodox Anglican Communities
1st - 3rd SEPTEMBER 2017
St Stephen's House
Tel: 0121 382 5533
The conference is based at Saint Stephens House Oxford 2nd-4th September starting with tea on the Friday and ending with lunch on the Sunday, accommodation and all meals are included. We do invite a small contribution of £75 towards the cost (there are grants available to help with this cost and with travel if necessary). Each place is subsidised by at least twice that amount of money by the Additional Curates Society.
The conference seeks to inform about process of discernment and selection and requirements that the Church of England sets. We like to set this conference within a theological college as it gives people an experience of the life that full time residential training presents us with. Although we are very conscious that not everybody will be training for full time ministry and increasingly people present themselves for self-supporting ministry. There is a chance to explore these patterns of service and also sector ministry such as chaplaincy. We will give you the opportunity to socialise and get to know others exploring ordination and ground it all in a few days of prayer and reflection.
We would very much like to invite you to join us . Please do complete the booking form and return it to us together with your contribution and letter of support from your Parish Priest, either in the post or e-mail this back to us and payments can be taken over the phone using all major credit/debit cards. Please do not hesitate to get in touch if there is any further information you require.
Click here for booking form
Under the new dispensation the Church of England is inviting all groups to flourish and grow and the Catholic Societies’ Vocations Initiative entitled here-i-am.org, not only represents an unprecedented working coalition of different Anglican Catholic Societies, but also a hugely successful piece of outreach that is challenging men of our constituency to think seriously about the possibility that they are being called to ministerial priesthood in the Church of England.
Starting on Friday 28th August 25 men (with ages ranging from 19 to 55,) will be coming together for 3 days at St Stephen’s House Oxford, to pray, consider and discern whether God may be calling them. Key note speakers include The Reverend Liz Boughton, Selection Secretary and National Advisor for Young Vocations at Ministry Division, Father Damien Feeney Catholic Evangelist for Wolverhampton, Bishop Norman Banks and Father Darren Smith (Additional Curates Society).
Father Smith would like to encourage everyone in the Catholic constituency to uphold these men in your prayers. Father Smith said “One of the encouraging signs for Anglican Catholics, is that in spite of the many challenges that face us God still continues to call priests to serve in our parishes”.
Every year the Catholic Societies organise both a residential conference and a day course and you will find details of both of these events on this site. The Residential Conference takes place on a Friday through to Sunday and the venue can vary, but has usually been at Saint Stephens House Oxford, or Mirfield Theological College West Yorkshire.
The purpose of the residential conference is first of all to bring people out of their ordinary lives and to give them a flavour of life in a Theological College. Immersed in corporate prayer we usually look together at the life of a priest, the process of selection, the individual criteria and matters of spirituality.
This conference is heavily subsidised by the Catholic Societies but a small contribution is expected from all participants. Our emphasis is not only to inform and support but also to give candidates a feeling of fun and fellowship.
Towards the end of the year a day conference is always organised usually in London. This is primarily for those on the journey rather than first enquirers. We endeavour to look at the individual selection criteria in the hope that it will assist those involved in the process to prepare for selection.
GOOD FEEDBACK FROM OUR DECEMBER 2014 CONFERENCE
Dear Here I Am Vocation,
I’d like to thank everyone involved in organising such a successful Vocations Day on Saturday.
I found it particularly valuable to be able to draw on the advice of those with an up-to-date understanding of what interviewers at a BAP will be looking for – so I’m particularly grateful that Hilary Ison, Bishop Norman and Bishop Jonathan gave up their time to be with us. Although I personally found some of what they had to say quite sobering (daunting in fact), such an informative and enjoyable session will, I’m sure, help many of us on the path of discernment.
That can be quite a solitary journey, so it’s also valuable to have an opportunity to meet others in the same situation and share experiences.
Last Friday I met with the Bishop and we had a wonderful chat about what it means to be a Deacon, and also what my hopes and fears were about life as an ordained minister.
My biggest fear is that once I am wearing a clerical collar, everyone will expect me to have the answers to all of life's questions. We talked about the fact that we are totally reliant on God in our ministry to sustain us and give us the words we need. It seems appropriate that I have been sent this prayer from Michael Ramsay recently:
Lord, take my heart and break it: break it not in the way I would like, but in the way you know best. And because it is you who break it, I will not be afraid, for in your hands all is safe and I am safe. Lord, take my heart and give it your joy, not in the ways I would like, but in the ways you know best, that your joy may be fulfilled in me. So, dear lord I am ready to be your deacon. Amen
College finished a couple of weeks ago, and all essays have been handed in (much to my relief), it is now a time of waiting and praying. It feels like I am in a limbo, or waiting in the departure lounge at the airport. There continues to be a real mix of emotions, still feeling excited and nervous, but I am also starting to feel impatient as I wait for the day to arrive.
This week I have got my interview with the Bishop, after all, it is his decision to ordain me. I am looking forward to meeting him, and praying with him and hearing what words he might have to say to me.
At the moment, I am feeling overwhelmed by the messages of support I am getting and the assurances of prayers. Talking to people who have already been ordained, they assure me that all the emotions and feelings I am having are perfectly normal, even though they don’t always feel like it. It is wonderful and humbling to have the support of so many people.
I will post again on the other side of my meeting with the Bishop.
It is now a month until my ordination as a Deacon. People told me that this year would go quickly and it certainly has!
How do I feel? A real mixture of things: excited, nervous, apprehensive, impatient, unworthy. I keep expecting someone to tell me that they have made a mistake and that is it not me after all.
The past couple of weeks have been quite momentous. I have had my final report from college signed off, my ember cards (prayer cards for those who are being ordained) have been delivered and my cassock, albs and other bits and pieces have started to arrive. Is this really happening I ask myself; is it really my name on those ember cards? Yes, it is.
The journey of discernment of a vocation can often be a long road, with many twists and turns. There are a few steep hills to climb along the way too. For some, ordination may seem like the finishing line, but it is another checkpoint on the road of discovering who and what God wants us to be. Yes, it is a significant milestone, but we continue to be formed and shaped in the image of Jesus; and that process, whatever our vocation, never ends.
So, what is left to do over the coming weeks? I have got one essay left to write, tickets for the ordination need to be sent out, then there is the rehearsal and the ordination retreat. But amongst all of the busyness, I must pray. I would ask for your prayers too, for me, and for all those who will be ordained this Petertide.
An initiative which encourages vocations to the priesthood across the Anglican Catholic traditionalist parishes of the Church of England has been updated as the ordination season approaches.
Here I Am (www.here-i-am.org.uk works closely with the mainstream national Church of England vocations team (https://www.churchofengland.org/clergy-office-holders/vocation.aspx ) encouraging candidates to come forward for the priesthood.
“We launched Here I Am almost three years ago now and we felt it was time, with a whole raft of ordinations coming up in June and July across the dioceses of the Church of England, to give our website and material a fresh look,” said Father Darren Smith, who co-ordinates the campaign.
The website has been refreshed, the logo and artwork updated and updated publicity materials have been produced.
In addition, a new series of videos has been directed featuring three recently ordained priests in which they explain their own vocational pathway and route to ordination.”
In the first video, launched yesterday, Father Edward Morrison, Curate of Cantley, in the Diocese of Sheffield, explains how God called him to the priesthood.
He explains how his work as an Officer Cadet in the Roy Navy played a big part: “ For a long time I thought that I was the sort of person that couldn’t be a priest but my experience in the Navy as an officer cadet showed me that God seemed to be blessing the work that I was doing and gave me a lot of encouragement.”
He adds: “If you have a vocation to the priesthood I strongly recommend that you speak to a priest about it.”
The busyness of Holy Week catches me slightly by surprise. So far it far exceeds that of late Advent and Christmas. Being a deacon of The Society, serving in a parish under the care of the Bishop of Richborough, I have been fortunate to be asked to deacon two of Bishop Norman’s Chrism Masses.
On Tuesday I make the journey to Canterbury with members of my parish and of other Richborough Family parishes in Rochester and Canterbury Dioceses. The Chrism Mass, also attended by the Archbishop of Canterbury, takes place in the beautiful and ancient crypt. Naturally in such surroundings I am reminded of the great continuity of the Church and faith in England.
Assistant curate at Saint John’s Sevenoaks
I was very interested to read the current statistics produced by the Church of England’s Ministry Division, which celebrates the fact that under 30’s now make up a quarter of all people accepted for training for Church of England Ministry.
Encouragingly the 2014 figures show that 116 under the age of 30 were accepted for training, the highest number for the last 25 years.
A Church that for so long seems to have undervalued the contribution that young vocations can bring to priestly ministry, not least in terms of enthusiasm, new vision and energy, has sort to address this with the appointment of a young vocations advisor in the person of The Reverend Liz Boughton (DOB 1966).
Min Div have come up with a number of new and imaginative schemes such as Mission Apprentices and Young Vocations Champions in each diocese in an attempt to target resources to this particular age group.
As Anglican Catholics young vocations has actually been one of our areas of strength and although we haven’t got exact figures, I think you only have to look at the age profile of Saint Stephen’s House to realise that this is something that we are achieving even with our limited resources and lack of Vocations Champions.
Certainly the Here I Am Vocations Initiative which has been running now for just under a year has attempted to connect with this group. The overall age profile of our videos and advertising literature seeks to promote vocations to both the younger candidate and ethnically diverse candidate. Only last night whilst speaking to a church group on vocations a comment was made about the age profile of that particular congregation being perhaps higher than anybody would want.
The person who made the comment also pointed out that many of our parishes seem to be in a similar position. I sometimes ask myself how is it that we are able to attract younger candidates if that is the case, indeed we can be proud of the fact that currently the youngest serving incumbent in the Church of England is a Traditionalist (Father Richard Norman).
Surely this is something to do with the fact that we talk about a priestly way of life, the giving of the whole of oneself, our young people are welcomed into the sanctuary and the majority of vocations are encouraged through the inspirational ministry of a particular parish priest.
The beauty of our worship and the whole mystic of the Mass makes connections that are so very different to the trendy culture of Messy Church.
But let’s not get complacent because the reality is for all of the Church that we constantly need to find new and imaginative ways of challenging people to think about their call to the priestly way of life.
Our ministry should truly reflect a whole range of age profiles, and unless we continue to put all our energies into nurturing priestly vocations then we are bound to find not only a constant strain to fill vacant parishes, but little opportunity to take up the General Synod’s current encouragement to Flourish and Grow as prescribed in the 5 principles.
Fr John Brownsell SSC
Vicar of All Saints Notting Hill, London
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