I’m off on Monday to a ‘Bishops’ Advisory Panel’ in Ely as an ‘Educational Adviser’. Anglican candidates for the ordained ministry in England and Scotland have a pretty rigorous selection procedure that can take years. And the ‘selection’ is for training, not for ordination itself, which the bishop decides about. The final stage is a 3-day conference which includes interviews, a presentation, chairing a discussion and some written work. Of course their ability to manipulate a knife and fork successfully at meals is the crux (joking – though advisers are told to keep observing all the time, and not to let their guard slip in the bar …)
The stage just before interviewing is wierd. You have a fat wad of papers about the candidate – including their own self-assessment, and at this stage you even have a photo. But you know that when you actually meet them, the picture you have built up can be radically altered – or not, as the case may be.
It’s quite hard to put yourself into words, even if you suspect that honesty will support your case rather than work against it. You try to tell the truth as you see it, but, as someone said, “Truth does not shine from people like a beacon, it fractures like light through a prism”. The interviewer catches bits here and there and tries to make sense of it all. And the candidate is probably wondering how many more times they have to relate their ‘journey’ before they know one way or the other which direction it is going in.
The extraordinary thing is how that decision emerges. You have the papers and the evidence and the careful discussions, but in the end there is a gathering speed of discernment which has just that touch of fiery authority to suggest the breath of the Spirit.