FROM THE CURATE’S HOUSE: I recently sent an invitation to my brother Jeremy. I asked him to come to my ordination in Littlemore Church later on this month. He was really very bewildered, and said, “I thought we did all that in the Cathedral last June?” His confusion is understandable, because our everyday Church language and the more precise Anglican terminology get rather tangled up with each other.
When you are accepted for training, you become an ORDINAND. During your last year of this initial training, the next step is to seek a title post. This is the parish in which you will continue your training, working as a CURATE, an apprentice to the parish priest. At the start of your curacy, you will be ordained DEACON. It from this point that you are eligible to use the title Rev! The diaconal year is the first twelve months of your time as a curate, and the Cathedral service pictures the role of deacon as a calling to be present at the in-between places, “searching out the poor and weak, the sick and lonely and those who are oppressed and powerless, reaching into the forgotten corners of the world, that the love of God may be made visible.”
After the first year of your curacy, you will normally be ordained PRIEST. After being priested, the real public celebration of this new phase of ministry is when you lead your first Communion service. Your apprenticeship as a curate continues for two more years. As the curacy nears its end, your bishop liaises with your parish priest and others involved in your training. If you have met the standards, you may apply for parish vacancies. If you are successful in your applications for a parish priest post, once you are inducted into that new parish, you are working there as VICAR to the parish. This means the priest who has specific responsibility for the church and community.
This is very simple picture of the process – and I have made it sound rather like a conveyor belt. The truth is that each person’s journey into priesthood is different. Gill Hancock, my predecessor for instance, has gone into hospice chaplaincy. My friend Peter will continue in his work as a civil servant with the Department for Trade and Industry. The reality of ordained vocation is that the Holy Spirit specialises in variety!
There is an even deeper reality at work. At the start of the Ordination service in Littlemore, Bishop John will declare “God calls his people to follow Christ, and forms us into a royal priesthood.”
It is only together that we are a royal priesthood. Bishop John will continue on to say “the Church is the Body of Christ, the people of God and the dwelling-place of the Holy Spirit. In baptism the whole Church is summoned to witness to God’s love and to work for the coming of his kingdom.” The more we discover of the grace we are given in our baptism, the more we are released to explore who we are called to be in the world. The font is where we meet our calling to be friends of God in the world that he loves.
Baptism is the ordination that we all share.