How much greater the devastation when the answer from the Selectors was a resounding NO
There followed an agonising summer. Our two bishops argued over what do with me, till I felt like a bone between two episcopal dogs.Should they, or should they not overrule the Selectors’ decision? I didn't know what I wanted. People were so outraged and appalled that it was impossible to have a normal conversation with anyone remotely involved. And in the middle of it all, I was left trying to recognise myself in the description of the candidate whom the Selectors appeared to have met….someone I couldn't relate to at all.
The next year was hard. I was grieving for a vocation I had only just acknowledged . My Reader ministry, which I had always loved and valued, suddenly seemed to be second best….My longing to celebrate the Eucharist hit me with fresh intensity whenever I attended the service. And worst of all, I was no longer sure who I was. The Selectors’ comments must have had some basis in reality, but it was not a reality that made any sense at all to me.
Through all that, though, two things remained with me.
One was some words of Rowan Williams.
“Vocation, you might say, is what is left when all the games have to stop” and the other was the small pebble of certainty that my vocation was, despite everything, to priesthood….
I returned to a Selection Conference 18 months later. This time I went filled with a calm assurance that this was exactly what I was supposed to be doing with my life. This time the Selectors were overwhelmingly supportive. And this time, I had the courage to offer to go on whatever terms God wanted…even if it did mean leaving the most beautiful house in the world.
And, 3 years after that, as I processed into the Cathedral at the start of my diaconal ordination, I knew that I was coming home to somewhere more precious than all the houses in England.
One interesting footnote, though. It wasn’t until the retreat before my priesting last summer that God brought me to the point where I could recognise the truth of some of the comments made by that first team of Selectors…It was a really wonderful realisation. They had been right about aspects of me, but utterly wrong about the conclusion they reached. If I’ve learned nothing else along the way, I do now know that God uses all sorts of broken people, and that recognising one’s own wounds can neither be rushed nor avoided.