I hope that, within this blog post, I can provide snippets of information which will encourage those who feel God’s calling to enter into ordained ministry within the Methodist Church and will soon be preparing for the selection interviews. These are only my views and I would welcome others to support the candidates with their own opinions and views.
You will by now have submitted your magnum opus, the 8000 word portfolio of essays and reflections upon which your initial selection was based. It allowed the selection committee to gain a perspective of yourself, of your capability to reflect upon your journey so far, the current journey and what you are looking to enter. It can be easy to submit and consider that it is in the past. It would be good to read the portfolio again, to re-assess where you have come from, theologically, and where God is taking you now. You may also see “errors” that you may wish to reflect upon and ‘have up your sleeve’ if questioned upon at CSC. I made a glaring error and it was useful to pick this up and know my answer prior to CSC than during an interview!
For Anglican readers of the blog, the Methodist Church has a 24 hour selection interview, not exactly your 3 day BAP, but equally intensive in my opinion.
Upon arrival at the centre (I went to High Leighs, shown above) you are allocated your accommodation. This was first rate: comfortable, modern and set in superb (reflective) surroundings. It certainly put me at my ease – you may see later some accommodation which was on offer (used for the interviews but previously as bedrooms), prior to the refurbishment, which may not have put you at your ease at all. You will then be directed to the waiting room. Get used to his room as it will be your “home” for the next 24 hours. You will remain there between interviews. It may be wise to bring along a reading book (light, upbeat and absorbing) to wile away the times when you may want to be with your own thoughts. There are a plethora of newspapers and magazines available – including the obligatory Methodist Recorder, a multitude of sweets (and fruit) and, of immeasurable value, a number of chaplains who are always available to listen to you. I would strongly encourage you to make use of these wonderful folk as they play no part in the selection and allow you to rationalise your thoughts on this acute part of your selection journey. You will also be allocated to a ‘panel’ – a selection committee who have within them the necessary experience to discern your abilities for your role. I speak as a student deacon as it was comforting to have ministers whom I had heard of and seen in the Methodist Church literature. I had Rev Matt Finch (Page 3) and Deacon Ellie Griffiths (Page 22) on my panel – it was great to meet them in person.
You then be called for the first of 3 ‘triangular interviews’: sounds awful – pulled in 3 directions – but really it is a discussion with 2 of the selection panel; hence 3 of you in total. They will have specific topics which they wish to discuss and to hear your story, your way of responding to scenarios and the reason why you have considered such answers. They were only generally about 15-20 minutes in length and over far quicker than I realised. They certainly made me feel very welcome and quickly put me at my ease. Then you were sent back to the waiting room.
After tea, where you will start your ‘formation’ – getting larger if you don’t watch just how much you eat! – we had the group activity. We had had much advice on how to act and not act. Yes, you shouldn’t take over the activity but permit others to realise their giftings to provide the required result. We had a skilled artist who was keen to utilise their skills, others who were very crafty and others who were happy to stand up and explain the creation to the rest of the candidates. Then it was back to the bar to relax and chill.
The next morning after breakfast there were opportunities to visit the Connexion pyschotherapist. They’ll call you if they need such a chat. This again is not daunting just they need to ask some questions which were not completely answered during the pyschotherapy chats you had in your own area. For the rest of the time you are back in the waiting room – with new newspapers and more sweets but still with those chaplains whom I would recommend chatting to and letting them hear of any concerns you may have.
Then finally you will be called to the panel discussion. Here you’ll have to give your 5 minute talk. You have practised this, you can have notes – one wonderful lady had 4 paintings she had completed which she used to articulate her talk, whilst another candidate had built a structure. Please just be yourself and let your talents, your skills shine through – don’t be inhibited by the task itself, it is you they want to see. It can look foreboding, 9-12 people all sitting in an arc, with all the chairs focussed on your chair. Nevertheless, you’ll have met so many of them on the previous day in the triangular talks. After your 5 minute talks – I recall it was timed – they have an opportunity to tie up loose ends, ask you questions which have sprung from the discussions yesterday and ask such questions such as how you would deal with issues in an ecumenical setting. I was more phased when they said I could take some fruit from a bowl on the table in front of me – what did this question mean? what fruit should I choose? did they expect some theological reflection on my chosen fruit? I can see now that they were simply being so welcoming and friendly. I chose a pear – but only one…
Now at this point I thought, phew, it was over but..
I was told, prior to CSC, that Panels of Reference were only for those where the Panel needed more information – if that were so, 90% of the candidates present were called to a Panel of Reference! This was just a 15 minute discussion with 4 ordained and lay representatives about a very specific topic. Due to the focus of this discussion it can feel that they are prying – mine was on a very personal point; in retrospect, I can see how they wanted to eliminate concern whether I could carry this issue into ministry, did I have the mechanisms to deal with this without having to require constant intervention?
We were actually delayed from leaving the High Leigh Conference Centre as all of the candidates had to complete their own Panels of Reference before the cohort could be despatched. The services held at High Leighs in the evening of the first day and prior to departure of the second day were wonderful and so encouraging. It was a great to be part of the worship during this time of selection.
I hope that this short blog post has highlighted some information which will help and encourage you as you prepare for CSC. No matter what, God is taking you on the journey and will not leave you.
There is a retreat organised by the Methodist Church in June/July for those whose path is not along the ordained ministry pathway at this time. Successful Deacons will be invited to attend Convocation and the Diaconal Student Conference.