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An alternative route to ordination

Published: 16th February 2023

Photo of a Deacon's stole15 people from parishes across the Diocese have started a new training course with the hope that many of them will be able to be ordained over the next couple of years. 

The Auxiliary Pathway is aimed at those who see their vocation as being non-stipendiary ministers to churches in their local area. People were nominated by their incumbents to be part of the two-year training scheme and there was an initial process of discernment through an interview. 15 people started on the pathway last September and during the training they will go through the full national discernment process to test their vocation. Some will do this within the first year and others will continue onto the second year with a view to ordination in 2024.

The pathway is led by Director of Ordinands and Vocation, John Fitzmaurice, with support from Doug Chaplin, our Lay Training and Discipleship Officer and Jonathan Kimber, Director of Ministry and Discipleship. The candidates also receive training from both our bishops.

John said: “It was amazing that so many people came forward to explore this pathway. We interviewed all of those who were nominated to ensure that this particular route was the best one for them and this affirmed existing vocations for some. Those who started the pathway are continuing through the process of discernment while they train. It had been originally expected that this process would be completed so they could be ordained at the end of the first year, but backlogs in the national discernment process along with some of our candidates wanting to take a bit more time, has meant that some will be ordained during the 2nd year of training. And of course, some may decide that ordination isn’t the right path for them.”

Dean Hall Dean Hall from Tardebigge in Redditch & Bromsgrove Deanery was licensed as a Reader in September 2021. He runs the church’s ‘Café Church’ alongside his wife Jane. He said: “In my head and heart I felt I’d completed my ministerial journey. Café Church has been working really well and I’d never considered ordination to be part of my calling. When the opportunity to join the Auxiliary Pathway came along, I prayed about it and had a number of conversations with the training team. In the end I decided that if I was accepted then I’d begin the training and go through the discernment process to see if it was right for me.  As time has gone on, I still have a slight feeling of ‘surely not me’, but feel that the answer coming back from God is clear. I’m looking forward to the fact that I don’t know where the journey will take me, I just know that I need to keep taking the next step and see where my feet will fall! This pathway is an excellent opportunity – not a shortcut to ordination, but a chance to take our ministerial gifts deeper in our own contexts.”

Linda NicholasLinda Nicholas is a Churchwarden and Reader at St Peter’s Church in Ipsley, Redditch. She said: “I had thought about ordination previously but wasn’t sure I was called to that ministry. However, I have been doing funeral ministry as a Reader and had a sense recently that people wanted a vicar. I had prayed about it and when I saw the Auxiliary Pathway, it felt like an answer to that prayer.  The training is magnificent! It is locally based, and I’ve found it fun. It’s very strange because we don’t know yet whether we will actually be ordained, but we have regular meetings with the diocesan team and I feel very encouraged - I’m now starting to believe that I can do it! Everyone has their ups and downs through the training, but we’re a very friendly bunch and all support each other. I have built friendships through the course."

Jen JonesJen Jones is churchwarden of Kyre Wyard and Stoke Bliss churches in Teme Valley South. She has been training for Reader ministry, assuming she was too old to start thinking about ordination. She said: “When the opportunity arose to be part of the Auxiliary Pathway, I was in floods of tears, it seemed like a brilliant opportunity. It’s been hard work, as I’m still doing the Reader training course to help with my theological knowledge and also don’t retire from my paid work until the end of March, but I’m really enjoying it. The encouragement from the training team has been brilliant and it’s been invaluable to hear the Bishops’ own journeys. I am excited about the possibility of working within my community as an ordained minister, to preside at communion and to connect with and help people from many different backgrounds.”

Mike BunclarkMike Bunclark in the Worcester South East Team trained as a Reader ten years ago. He thought about ordination at that time, but felt his age would count against him. He said: “I have thoroughly enjoyed serving my parish as a Reader but always had a niggling feeling that I should have tried for ordination. When the Auxiliary Pathway was announced, I had an initial access interview and was delighted to be accepted - it’s given me an opportunity which I felt wouldn’t come. With the particular focus on my local community and surrounding area, it felt like it was designed for people like me. There has been tremendous support from the bishops and the training team and I am enjoying going through the process with a great bunch of people. Should I be ordained, it will be joyful to be able to celebrate the Eucharist with people; to baptise and marry them and to continue to serve in our ministry team for as long as I’m able.”

John Fitzmaurice continued: “The whole group are a delight to work with and are very supportive of each other. This is an initial two-year pilot, so we’ll be evaluating it at the end of the second year to decide if it is something we continue with in future years. Please pray for all of those who are following this pathway.”

Page last updated: Sunday 19th February 2023 11:16 AM

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