It would not be inaccurate to say that the journey to the Diaconate has many decisive moments. Some, relatively small decisions like what colour shoes to wear on the sanctuary, or, how to remember to breath when reading from Scripture in church? A bigger decision was now upon me, having completed a relatively trouble free and enjoyable first year as an enquirer, I had now taken that big decision to formally apply, and had been invited to LACE in Liverpool to be put through my paces.
I wasn’t sure what to expect, and went with an open mind. After all I truly believed this was God calling me, not the other way round, and he would be the ultimate judge as to whether or not I was accepted on the programme.
There were only three of us left from the original group, and quite naturally there was an air of nervous anticipation, as we gathered together at the beginning of the day, not quite knowing what lay ahead of us.
A somewhat friendly group of a dozen or so inquisitors was gathered together, a mixture of Priests, Deacons and Lay people. As we were each given our separate agendas, the reality dawned on me that this was to be no friendly walk in the park. The morning consisted of numerical and literacy tests, interviews with psychologists, a Scripture comprehension session, and interview with the Director of the Diaconate. And all that before lunch!! At least the afternoon looked more gentile – a group discussion, presumably a chat about the morning events.
My career outside Church involved managing touch decisions in a tough environment, so I am conditioned to handling these situations. However this was tough. Very tough. The tests were degree level and the Psycologists probed to examine highly sensitive issues. We were given typical scenarios of things we might expect to have to deal with. I had to dig deep time and again as my answers were challenged and views tested. There were some areas discussed, which were highly sensitive within the church: child abuse, divorce, adultery etc. Nothing was off limits.
As we finished the morning session and gathered together for lunch, I glanced at my two fellow candidates who each looked as stunned as I felt. At least it was over and I could look forward to the afternoon wrap up after a nice buffet lunch. Or at least that’s what I thought!
My heart sank as I saw the team arranging the room for the afternoon session. three chairs in the middle of the room and a circle around them. we were called to take centre stage and given our “group task” for the afternoon. We were given a subject to discuss between us and the one of us (guess who) had to give a 10 minute presentation about the topic and what our interpretation was. The task consisted of a quote from the Archbishop which was a statement about our churches becoming the hospitals and home for those needy in society. Our discussion was closely watched by those around us, quite intimidating as lots of notetaking and nodding of heads occurred. We were given a flip chart and yours truly attempted to gather our thoughts together ahead of the presentation. Ten minutes later and it was all over. Such a relief! The three of us bade our farewells and left the building. Never before had the Liverpool air felt so fresh! One of our threesome was so traumatised he announced he was walking home, even though it was several miles away. As things transpired he didn’t make it onto the course, although we did later bump into him a year or so later at Hope University when attending one of the modules on the CCRS course.
That evening sat at home I felt despondent. I knew I hadn’t covered myself in glory; I failed to complete either the numeracy or literacy tests, my answers to the pyschologists lacked depth and I missed the main point of the scripture tests. It felt like a wasted year. My family, sensing my mood were comforting, even suggesting that if I didn’t pass through I could always try again next year. But for me there would be no next year. Either God was calling me to the Diaconte or he wasn’t.
It really was now or never…