Naturally, any blog involves the instantiation of one’s self into the posts. It’s impossible to write meaningfully and to not at the least imply something of yourself and your thoughts through the words. However, while I have written about my experiences in a couple of posts (like my recent reflection on my deafness and sense of identity or what I remember of 9/11) I have generally written about a topic or an event (like my Lent Reflections , thoughts on the Cross or Justin Welby and Identity), rather than myself.
Today is different though.
For those of you who don’t know, I’ve just spent the last two years working as a Pastoral Support Worker at the London School of Theology while studying for a masters in Theology part time. This followed three years of studying for my Bachelors of Arts in Theology.
Whilst there, a sense of calling which I have avoided most of my life became increasingly hard to ignore. Having grown up as the son of a Vicar people had always assumed that I would be a Vicar like my Dad (with more than a joke or two made about some day being the Archbishop of Canterbury!). I had always disagreed. That was not to be my life – I would be my own person thank you very much.
My philosophy ever since I had to choose my options of my GCSEs has been to study what I’ve found interesting and enjoyable and I would hopefully find myself qualified for a job I would find interesting and enjoyable.
This led to choosing my sixth form in order to do Philosophy and Ethics.
In turn I then chose to study theology at the London School of Theology. I wanted to engage with scripture and the philosophies of faith from a believing Christian perspective, but I didn’t want to go to a denominational college as I was aware that I was, then, Anglican by virtue primarily of having grown up with it. The London School of Theology is both interdenominational and international and intercultural. This broadened my horizons on many levels. A story for another time would be my experiences of my first year where I began to recognise that I with my growing and developing theological understandings fit best into the Anglican system of beliefs (despite my baptist roommate passionately explaining his various perspectives until 4am on several occasions; and vice versa!).
During my time there I underwent a lot of personal transformation, much of which was a direct result of the Gospel which was ministered to me continuously through studies, friendships, the community, prayer and worship.
As a result of many conversations with different people I spoke to my Dad to ask what the process was of exploring the possibility of ordination. He pointed me towards the Bishop’s Officer for Ordinands and Initial Training (formerly the Diocesan Director of Ordinands; DDO). At his recommendation I spent probably the best part of a year, if not more, having conversations with a vocations adviser.
It was these conversations which really guided my reflections on my faith, abilities and sense of calling. There were a couple of moments in particular which spiritually resonated with me and gave me the confidence to knock on the door and see what would happen.
A few more chats with the DDO, a couple of interviews with examining chaplains and a Bishop and I was off to the Bishop’s Advisory Panel in May of this year. For those who don’t know, this is a residential few days of a variety of activities. There’s presentations and group discussions, and there’s a series of interviews. These are the Pastoral, the Educational and the Vocational. Over the course of the few days (I keep thinking of it as a weekend but it was a mid-week thing) they assess you against the nine selection criteria and write a report which advises your Bishop on whether or not they recommend you for training. It was both an intense but oddly comfortable experience which raised about as many doubts as it settled nerves.
I had a visit to speak with the Bishop a couple of weeks later and he was satisfied to send me for training.
A few more interviews and a busy summer of studying and paperwork and here I am! Sitting in my office in my house in Durham (which I’ll be sharing with some fellow ordinands) getting ready for the induction days which start tomorrow!
I am now here and about to spend a couple of years at Cranmer Hall training for Ordination and ministry in the Church of England. It’s an exciting place to be emotionally and spiritually. I imagine that I have no idea what I’ve let myself in for! One of my lecturers at the London School of Theology gave me this small poster of encouragement a year or so ago and I’ve placed it on my door here as a reminder and encouragement to myself to fix my eyes on Christ as I find myself pursuing this path of obedience to the Lord who has called me to follow him.
I look forward to blogging more often, reflecting on the topics we study and, where appropriate, of my experiences here in this next chapter of my own pilgrim journey seeking after God! I also have some side projects in mind which will hopefully be appearing in the near future!
May the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your Spirit,
Samuel S. Thorp