Friday, June 20, 2014

Ordinands and Synod

For those who are interested, I thought I would write down what happens in a MCSA probationer's ordination year.

The year starts with an assignment where the ordinand prepares a programme for his or her year. This includes training, retreats, reading and more. This assignment is presented at the January seminar in a small group. The seminar has lectures and group work and consists of two or three days. After this another assignment must be submitted where the ordinand researches the subject 'ordination'.

Synod is the next big step. In the Cape of Good Hope District the synod event for ordinands begins with 'screening'. This is an interview with the same committee that interviewed the prospective ordinand a year ago. They look at their notes from a year back and try to determine if growth has occurred in the ordinand's life. They then recommend to synod whether or not the ordinand should be ordained.

For me, it was interesting to see the picture that the committee had drawn of me. I have a terrible tendency to accept people's conception of me and 'play along' and this has been exacerbated by the church training. I suppose also I have become aware of it, so this is a good thing. My own screening interview was fine.

The next evening sees the witness service where all the ordinands share their journey through probation with a synod congregation. We were told we had five minutes in the weeks before the service. This was amended to three minutes immediately before and I think were actually allowed about six. We receive a mark for the presentation of our testimony (and quite possibly we were all marked down for going over three minutes!) It never occurred to me that after the service I would go from a total unknown at synod to 'everyone knows me and now I can't hide'. The encouraging and positive comments were, however, very affirming and made up for my loss of invisibility!

The next item is the oral exam for presbyter ordinands (ministers can be presbyters or deacons). This was scheduled for the next day, Thursday, but actually came about late Friday morning. We received a long list of questions after the witness service on Wednesday night so there was too much to really prepare, but they were not totally unseen when the moment came. The wait was hard. I found my mind constantly going back to the questions which was not helpful as answers should be fairly to the point, not theses. For me, the actual exam went ok. God took away my nerves and broke through the mug that threatens to encase me in these sort of moments. I suppose this is arrogant, but it helps that generally I do know what I am talking about theologically! Again the comments afterwards were incredibly encouraging and affirming. So I felt good!

Finally the marks for the witness service and oral exam are given to the synod and the synod votes on whether or not to ordain the ordinands. All was good for my colleague Wandile and myself and so our next stop is the retreat during Conference and then ordination.

God has been kind to me.

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