All Christians are called by Jesus Christ to be his followers and to serve him in many different ways. Some people are called to ordained ministry as a deacon or priest. This is a particular calling to be set apart and to be given authority by the Church for a sacramental and functional leadership role of service.
Why does the Church have an ordained ministry?
The ordained ministry is Christ’s gift to his Church. In their life and ministry, bishops, priests and deacons are called to speak in Christ’s name and build up the Church of which he is the head. In this way the whole body of the Church is ordered in faithful response to the Lord’s summons to share his work.
The ministry of deacons is focused on being heralds of the kingdom and in bringing before the servant Church the needs of the world.
The ministry of priests (who continue to exercise diaconal ministry) is focused on calling the Church to enter into Christ’s self-offering to the Father, drawing God’s people into a life transformed and sanctified through the ministry of Word and sacrament.
Is God calling me to ordained ministry?
People’s sense that God is calling them comes in a variety of ways, from a clear word from God to a nagging feeling that won’t go away. It’s not just a sense of ‘I could do this better than my vicar’ or ‘I’m good at teaching’; the calling usually comes from a deep inner sense that God is drawing you into this way of life. Invariably, people have also received some kind of encouragement from others along the way too.
How does the Church choose people for this ministry?
If you sense God might be calling you, you should talk to your vicar or chaplain in the first instance. You should have been worshipping in your home church for at least six months, long enough to be known by ministers and other worshippers there. This is often the most daunting conversation, but have courage! If they are encouraging, you will start working with the diocesan vocations team, which is overseen by the Diocesan Director of Ordinands (DDO). You will then work with a Vocations Guide or Assistant DDO (ADDO) to discern whether God is calling you to this ministry. They will want to hear your own personal sense of being called and will also talk with you about the ‘call of the Church’. It is important that you are informed and realistic about the joys and challenges of ordained ministry. It is also important that other people can hear and recognize God’s call on your life. The process is rigorous, searching and requires courage and patience, and may involve placements, reading and work with a spiritual director. After a number of interviews you will be asked to see the Sponsoring Bishop who decides whether or not to send you to a Bishop’s Advisory Panel (BAP). This is a three-day residential conference during which candidates are interviewed, give presentations, chair a meeting and do a piece of written work. The Advisers make a recommendation to the Sponsoring Bishop who decides whether a candidate should begin training for Ordained Ministry.
How are ordinands trained?
Following a BAP, an ordinand trains for two or three years, either full-time or part-time depending on age, prior learning and experience. It also tends to depend on whether you offer yourself for full-time stipendiary ministry or self-supporting ministry (usually ministering alongside other employment or work in the local community). The right pathway for you is worked out with the DDO and the Sponsoring Bishop. For those 32 and under, you normally undertake three years’ training full-time (or 2 years for those who already have a Theology degree). For those between 33 and 50, training normally lasts 2 years full-time or 3 years part-time. For those between 50 and 55, training will be part-time and usually lasts 3 years. After ordination, a period of three or four years is served in a parish as a curate. To gain a rounded experience of ministry, candidates are required to serve in a different parish from their ‘sending’ parish.
Are there age limits for being ordained in the Diocese?
Yes. You must be 50 or under at the start of training to be sponsored for stipendiary ministry. For self-supporting ministry, you must be no older than 55 at the start of training. Be aware that it normally takes between one and two years to complete the discernment process.
Whom should I contact?
If you feel God might be calling you to be a Deacon or Priest, it's good to have an initial conversation with your vicar or chaplain. If they are supportive, the first person you would normally speak to is one of our Vocations Officers:
The Revd Robert Norbury, Diocesan Young Vocations Officer
The Diocesan Director of Ordinands has oversight of the selection and training of candidates for ordained ministry:
01273 421 021
Mentors for Ordained Ministry
The Diocesan Vocations Team is made up of 21 people from across Sussex (both DDOs and Vocations Guides) from a wide range of backgrounds, but you may value the support offered from the Church of England Mentor Directory.
This resource is for those at any stage on the journey towards ordained vocations, who might feel that they would like to have a knowledgeable friend, who is like them, to accompany them along the way.
All the Mentors are volunteers who are passionate about supporting future clergy. While your Mentor will not be making decisions on your process, they will be available to offer support, encouragement and guidance.
You and your Mentor decide when, how and how often to meet and they will walk with you for as long as you need them to. For more information, click here.