If you believe that God is calling you to be a deacon or priest within the Church of England, your first action should be to speak to people you trust and who know you well, including your parish priest or chaplain.
Each Diocese in the Church of England has its own selection process. If you live in the Diocese of Southwark and, after a period of discernment and prayer, you still feel that you would like to pursue this, your next step is to ask your parish priest or chaplain to commend you for a Vocations Forum.
Vocations Forums usually take place at Trinity House, near London Bridge, although during the Coronavirus pandemic they are being held online via Zoom. They will give you an opportunity to talk and listen to others who also believe that God may be calling them, to reflect on what the Bible says about ministry, and to think about your own journey of faith so far.
In the Diocese of Southwark, you are required to attend a Vocations Forum if you wish to be considered for ordained ministry within the Church. Your parish priest or chaplain can book you on a Forum by e-mailing Sue Stewart, the Vocations Department Administrator (contact details are at the bottom of the page).
At the end of the Forum, you will be asked if you would like to be assigned a Vocations Advisor. You may decide that you do not wish to pursue things further at this stage.
If, however, you would like to continue to explore your calling, there are two further stages in the discernment process.
Stage 1: working with a Vocations Advisor
At this stage, you will be assigned a Vocations Advisor who will contact you and arrange a time to meet.
Over the next three to four months you will have a number of meetings with your Vocations Advisor who will help you to discern your calling further, which will include conversation, reading and written work, and may also involve placements in other churches or contexts and undertaking some formal theological study, such as the Bishop’s Certificate course.
Stage 2: the Vocations Advisor report
At this end of three to four months, your Vocations Advisor will submit a report recommending whether or not you continue with the process. It is very much hoped that you and your advisor will have reached an agreement on this before the report is submitted.
If the recommendation is for you not to continue, you will be offered further support to help you reconsider your vocation, and how you might best move forward.
If, however, the recommendation from your Vocations Advisor is that you continue with the process, you will be referred to the Diocesan Director of Ordinands (DDO), who will allocate you to a Director of Ordinands who will work with you over the next nine to 18 months.
To find out what happens next, visit our page on BAPs and the national process.
Obedient, realistic, informed
The path to ordination is not an easy one. That inner sense of call to serve Christ in priestly ministry can bring joy, excitement and life-giving energy, but the call to share in Christ’s priesthood is also a call to share in Christ’s self-giving. This type of self-sacrifice is out of step with much of mainstream culture, and it is important to reflect carefully on whether the time is right for the change in attitudes and lifestyle that will be required of you.
It is also important to include your spouse and family in any discussion of your vocation. Although they do not have to participate in your ministry, they will share in the sacrifices you have to make during and after training, and in the demands of your ministry. For your vocation to be realistic, you will need the full support of your family.
Am I too old?
The process of discernment can be lengthy, and we are keen to manage expectations in order to avoid disappointment further down the line. To this end, we remind all our candidates that there are age limitations to some ministries in the Diocese of Southwark.
- Candidates for nationally deployable, full-time, stipendiary priestly ministry must be 57 years or younger at the point of entering training (if doing a three-year course), or 58 years of younger at the point of entering training (if doing a two-year course).
- Candidates for locally deployable, part-time, non-stipendiary ministry must be 62 years or younger at the point of entering training (if doing a three-year course), or 63 years of younger at the point of entering training (if doing a two-year course).
If you have queries about any of the points raised on this page, please contact the Director of Vocations and DDO, the Revd Canon Leanne Roberts (contact details below).