“You cannot bear the weight of this calling in your own strength, but only by the grace and power of God.” (Ordination service)
As Christians, we are all called through our baptism to be witnesses to Christ, but some are specifically called through ordination to serve in the threefold order of bishops, priests and deacons.
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Ordained ministry is an exciting and big commitment. When someone is first ordained they are ordained a deacon, normally for a year before being ordained a priest. Some are called to remain as distinctive deacons; the diaconate is a go-between ministry, working within the church but also reaching out to the whole community
A priest’s work is to build up the Body of Christ through:
- the celebration of the sacraments,
- preaching; and
- pastoral care.
Many will work in a parish, but others will be chaplains in schools or hospitals, prisons or the armed forces, or pioneer ministers working in Fresh Expressions of church.
Some priests and deacons while ministering in a parish will earn their living in a secular job and are described as Self-Supporting Ministers (SSM).
The Church in the 21st century needs a wide range of ministers to serve the mission of God.
Throughout history God has called people of all ages, ethnic groups and educational backgrounds, to play their part in building his kingdom. We are all given uniquely precious gifts.
The Church of England is keen to encourage people from all backgrounds to explore their call to ordination. Find out more at Church of England - vocations
In Rochester Diocese, if you feel called to ordained ministry, you must first attend an ‘It’s Your Calling’ day and then meet with one of our Diocesan Vocations Advisers
If it is agreed that ordination may be the right ministry for you, then you will meet with the Diocesan Director of Ordinands (DDO) or one of the Assistant DDOs.
At this point, a reference will be required from your parish priest. You might be asked to do some written work, further reading, or visit other churches.
This time of discernment is used to explore whether you have the necessary gifts and potential to fulfill an ordained ministry; it could take at least 15 months. If you are invited to attend a Bishops’ Advisory Panel (BAP)you may then be recommended for training.
- Find out more on the Preparing for ordained ministry pages of the Church of England website.
- All our training and discernment opportunities will be listed in Events and Training.
The order of Deacons is a full and equal order of those ordained to ministry. When called to be a distinctive deacon, you are called to provide a focus for the whole church of the servant ministry as modelled by Christ to his disciples. Working collaboratively with laity, priests and bishops, Distinctive Deacons encourage and help to co-ordinate the servant ministry of the whole church within the mission of God in the world.
The diaconate is a go-between ministry, working within the church but also reaching out to the whole community particularly those on the fringes of society and making sure the church is aware of the needs of the wider world. They have a prophetic ministry as heralds of the gospel - envoys or advocates. They may be involved with issues of justice, poverty or environmental concerns.
In their liturgical role they may be responsible for intercessions (leading and training), reading the gospel, introducing prayers of penitence or in leading non-Eucharistic worship, including funerals and baptising and marrying when necessary or appropriate. They also share in preaching with all other ordained or authorised ministers. Deacons have an enabling role alongside the oversight exercised by bishops and priests.
Deacons test their vocation and attend a Bishop's Advisory Panel in the same way as priests. Candidates over the age of 32 years train on a part-time course over a period of three years.
Priests are called by God to work as shepherds and servants amongst the people to whom they are sent by their bishop. Priests proclaim the word of the Lord and in Christ's name absolve and declare the forgiveness of sins. They baptise and prepare the baptised for confirmation.
They preside at the celebration of Holy Communion. They lead the people in prayer and worship, intercede for them, bless them in the name of the Lord, encouraging by word and example. They minister to the sick and prepare the dying for their death.
Like deacons, priests in the Church of England are under authority, which is to say that the location and nature of their service is worked out with their bishop.
A stipendiary minister is someone who exercises their ministry full time from which they receive an income (a stipend) and usually a house. Whilst most will minister primarily in a parish setting throughout their lives, some will function in a specialist ministry as chaplains to hospitals, the armed forces, prisons, industry, schools, universities and colleges.
Increasingly, many people exercise their ministry as they continue in their ongoing occupations. Such ministers are referred to as self supporting ministers. The title reflects not on their ministry but on the fact that they receive no income from it.
The Church of England is committed to fresh expressions of Church: new and different forms of Church for a changing society. We need new forms of ordained ministry to pioneer these fresh expressions of Church and to guide their life.
There are some common threads which point to what the Church is looking for in an ordained pioneer minister:
- A track record and experience of leading or involvement in a fresh expression of Church
- A heart for mission and evangelism and for reaching out to those outside the life of the church
- Good and effective communication skills
- Potential for imaginative, pioneering ministry
If you are called to ordained pioneer ministry you will need to have (or the potential to develop) these gifts. You will also need to fulfil the same criteria for selection as all candidates for ordained ministry in the Church of England.
Some potential candidates feel called to ministry in a chaplaincy setting, for example in a prison, hospital, school or workplace. It would normally be expected that such a candidate would need to do a curacy before moving to such an appointment, although some have served as curates and chaplains at the same time.
- Pray... With an open mind and an open heart, ask God how you might become all that he intends you to be and how best you can serve him.
- Reflect… On your unique gifts. What makes you special? What gifts has God given you for growing his kingdom? Are you a good listener, someone with caring skills, keen to share your faith, creative, a natural leader?
- Talk…to your vicar, your family and friends. Those who know you well may be able to see how God might be calling you. They might have spotted it a long time ago and have been waiting for you to recognise it yourself.
- Come…to an It’s Your Calling day. These are run by our team of vocations advisers in different venues throughout the year. You’ll have a chance to meet people on a similar quest and have time and space to reflect on what exciting plans God has in store for you.
Here are some of the opportunities we have available to help you explore your calling:
'It’s Your Calling' days are reflective days, aimed at those exploring where God may be calling them. They are an opportunity to look at our individual journeys of faith and the gifts that God has given us, as well as the Biblical understanding of vocation.
The day gives an opportunity to meet others on a similar quest and to take time to think about where God could be calling you. After an It’s Your Calling day, there is an opportunity to make contact with one of our Vocations Adviser, for an informal chat.
'It's Your Calling' days are usually held three times each year, and generally take place during the day on a Saturday.
Vocations Advisers are not there to promote one type of ministry, but to listen to your story and to help discern what God might be saying; they are there for you. If at any time you would like to speak with a Vocations Adviser, you should first speak with your incumbent and then contact the Vocations Adviser in your Archdeaconry.
Bromley and Bexley Archdeaconry
The Rev Alison Newman
The Rev Jim Fletcher
The Rev Wil North
Each Archdeaconry has a team of men and women, lay and ordained, who are able to help. You can also email the Diocesan team direct on: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gifts and talents need developing so, when you are clear what your future calling or ministry might be, we’ll be delighted to help you find the appropriate training
The Rev Canon Pamela Ive
Diocesan Director of Ordinands and Vocations
Diocesan Director of Ordinands and Vocations Administrator