So, you’re going to a BAP…

Well, actually, the chances are you’re not – you’re probably just a regular reader of this blog who has absolutely no intention of ever putting themselves forward for ordination in the Church of England. [Wait, are you confused as to why I’m talking about BAPs? This explains it all.] However, this post is primarily for the benefit of at least four people I’m acquainted with who I know are going to BAPs imminently. Plus, there’s always the chance that the odd candidate might approach Google for help.

Whitby AbbeyThe graveyard at Whitby. This image is becoming my default ‘card to send to BAP candidate’ image…

True, when you’re selected for a BAP, the CofE sends you a helpful booklet entitled ‘Going to a Bishops’ Advisory Panel’, which explains the processes and procedures (if you’re interested, you can find a copy here). But, there are plenty of things that you could do with knowing that neither it nor your DDO (Diocesan Director of Ordinands, aka the person who you meet with regularly who supervises your progress through the selection process) tells you, so these are some of my tips. One day, I might write an entire book of such hints – I’d like to call it The Irreverent Guide to Becoming a Reverend – or maybe the Church Times would like a new regular columnist…?

My DDO was terribly thorough in her BAP preparation, which was very useful – we even had a helpful clothing chat. [This can be summarised as: no suits; smart-casual; be comfortable. Basically, wear what makes you feel good, but be sensible.] One of her best pieces of advice was that I should take ‘comforting’ things with me – like a Teddy Bear, a favourite book and some nice food. I translated this as:

  • Comfort viewing – specifically Gilmore Girls Season 4. Do not underestimate the power of the box set. BAPs involve long periods of time in your room and it’s nice to have background noise and something to get engrossed in to take your mind off everything else.
  • A cosy cardi – partly in case it was cold, partly so I could curl up in it.
  • Green & Blacks chocolate – self-explanatory.
  • G&T in a can – for emergency situations only. In fact, I ended up drinking it on the train home because I hadn’t needed it.
Beforehand, lots of people will (hopefully) give you advice, pray for you and send you nice (or comedy) cards. If you know someone going to a BAP, look up the address of their centre (it’s either Ely or Shallowford, so not tricky to find) and send a card to them that they’ll get on arrival – it’s a nice touch. Amongst my cards, I had a letter of advice from my Dad which included a few gems:
  • “Do be yourself…” “Do show your humorous side…”
  • “Don’t get into an argument! Do keep calm at all times.”
  • “Don’t dominate a discussion… As Karen was told in Outnumbered, ‘treat everyone with respect – even idiots’.”

[I feel I should clarify that my Dad wasn’t suggesting that I would get into an argument – just that he’d heard of it happening. He was suggesting that I might dominate a discussion and it’s not the first time he’s compared me to Karen from Outnumbered.]

Once you’re actually at the BAP, the important thing to remember is that everyone is in the same boat. Don’t let yourself get psyched out by the people who already seem to be behaving like vicars (unless they’re one of the advisors). It’s a little bit like Freshers Week at uni – everyone will ask you the same questions and you’ll spend a lot of time having the same conversations, and you’ll be offered endless cups of tea.

There will be ice-breakers, they may be cringeworthy, but this is an ideal time to pick up on what your advisors are like – which is always useful, especially when you’re completing your Personal Inventory. This is a peculiar 45 minute exam on you and your calling (top tip: take more than one pen in with you). In mine, I took a risk in the Education section and used Glee as an illustration – having already spotted that my Education Advisor was younger and had teenage children – it worked, she got it. Neither of the others would’ve known what I was talking about!

Your DDO may suggest you don’t become too pally with the other candidates, which is probably wise. But it’s worth finding out who the likely pub people will be (I ended up being the only woman who went for a drink), although there’s also a good chance you’ll be at a venue that’s miles from a pub – but there will be a bar. It’s also worth remembering that you may come across the candidates at a later date – like at the theological college you end up at. You may even have met some of them at open days or diocesan vocation courses – which can be both a help and a hindrance. Hopefully you’ll also find someone you can have a giggle with. A friend of mine at Vicar School found the whole BAP/baps thing hilarious and someone prayed that he’d find someone at his BAP who also found it funny – he did, and as it turns out, both of them ended up at the same college.

It’s a long 48 hours and definitely arduous. You’ll go to more chapel services than you’ll have thought possible [they will say that all but two are optional, but really, you’ve got to go – you’re hoping to become a vicar after all!]; you’ll be watched all the time – especially at meal times [you rotate between tables, which can become a trial to remember]; you’ll get grilled three times; and you’ll be with a bunch of total strangers, several of whom you’ll probably think are utterly insane. There will be people who you’ll think shouldn’t get selected – but you definitely can’t tell them that. There may even be people who seem to think that you shouldn’t be (perhaps because of your gender or age) but ignore them.

You’ll also need people on the outside. If you’re married/in a relationship, then you’ll participate in the mass, post meal, exodus of phone call makers. If you’re single, have people who you can call or text whenever you need to. In both cases, have people at home who are praying. (My church always prayed for BAP people at weekly staff meetings – find out if your church does.) Even better, have someone on hand who’s been through the process themselves. I was lucky enough to have had two friends go to BAPs in the two months before mine, and one was on hand for “I can’t believe how crazy this is!” phone calls. You probably won’t have wifi, and 3G access will probably be patchy – so don’t rely on that kind of communication.

Oh, and your bedroom door may not have a lock. This probably isn’t a big deal, but it does mean that you need to pay attention to your room name – rather than relying upon a number on a key-ring. I was shown to my room, I unpacked and left for a cuppa, realising half-way down the corridor that I had no idea of my room name and only a vague idea of which one it was. Given that none of the doors locked, there was a high chance that if I picked the wrong room, I’d walk in on a fellow candidate! (Or, even worse, an advisor. Or, even worse than that, an interview.)

Ultimately, the best advice is to go and be yourself. If your DDO is worth their salt, you wouldn’t have got to the BAP stage if they didn’t think you were a worthwhile candidate. If it all goes horribly wrong, it isn’t the end of the world (although, if you feel like Nigel from Rev did, then do avoid church roofs) and you can have a second chance at it. Whatever you do though, don’t drink your emergency G&T just before an interview – those bad boys have two and a half shots in them, which could decimate your performance!

Comments

  1. Fantastic advice! Now I am only a humble lurker (and an even more humble United Reformed Church Minister) but I have been an interviewer at our version of BAP (less interesting name though) and what I would like to add is – it isn’t a job interview. You are not competing against anyone else. Rather it is an opportunity to discern whether the calling you are feeling is really to ordained Ministry.
    And it helps to mention God every now and then in your answers!
    To all those going to such conferences, God bless you and may the Spirit guide both the candidates and the interviewers too

  2. Brilliant Liz! It’s the practical tips that really help as these things can totally throw you off. I would totally walk away from my room with no idea how to get back to it!! Plus glad to here there is even a place for Glee references at a BAP!!

  3. @Lythan – you’re absolutely right, it’s not a job interview! In fact the great thing about these panels (no matter the denomination) is that everybody could get through.

    @Nicola – the Glee references do totally depend upon the people conducting the interviews… 😉

  4. Thanks for this Liz…I just copied and pasted it to the 2 guys in my 2 churches who have the delight coming up in the next few weeks…hope that was ok, I gave you full credit!!

  5. This is brilliant, Liz – as only you could make it brilliant! I will pass on your tips to others!

  6. Thank you for this! You should apply for that job at the church times! If not I’m sure Gordons would pay you a little commission!! 😉

  7. Just failed my first, and only, BAP. Won’t be back. Internal diocesan reports glowed, BAP went down like a broken lift. Blame and recrimination all around I see. What a way to select (and I had to wait nearly a year for the Faculty). Divorcees are still second-class Christians in the CofE.

    • I’m so sorry to hear that David – praying that your next steps become clear.
      I do think that there are issues in the selection process that need to be dealt with.

    • Hi
      I just recently 2 weeks ago – failed BAP – I cannot understand the process at all
      out of context
      taken away from home
      no one told the other candidates it wasn’t a competition
      Could not express myself at all
      waited almost a year for my c4 faculty too
      Come and see me in my parish, come and assess me at my ‘work’, come and see intercessions, PCC meetings, exploring Christianity, speak to the congregation, follow me around for 3 days… don’t put me in a hideous conference centre…… awful experience. Feel like I have let so many people down, most of all God, whom I wished to serve and dedicate the whole of my life to.

  8. Hi David, I recently failed a BAP,too. I now feel like a useless piece of rubbish – damned with faint praise by the “advisers”. I too had very good diocesan references which the “advisers” seemed to totally ignore. But hey, life goes on. I have a future of shrinkage to look forward to if I stay where I am or uncertainty if I leave to seek continued growth. There is something fundamentally wrong with the selection process and for me it has been neither biblical nor Christ-like. Anne

    • Anne – please know that whatever you feel, you are not a useless piece of rubbish! If your diocesan advisors were so supportive, perhaps it’s worth trying again in a couple of years? I really pray that you are able to hear God’s voice in all of this confusion and know what steps to take next. Liz x

  9. Anonymous says:

    Just failed a bap, glowing reports and references too. My own church team are stunned but I am divorced.55 and obviously don’t fit criteria. I believed this was about God calling me to service?

    • So sorry for you – its now 5 years on, are you still serving in your own way? I too failed BAP under the same circumstances. Cant get my head round the process at all!

  10. Lovely to see the new look blog post and website. My reflections on BAP and those of others, are linked to from http://ramtopsrac.wordpress.com/2012/04/30/to-bap-baping-i-baped-encountering-the-verb-of-selection-for-ordination/.

    It is very sad to read that those who have been rejected by BAP after positive encouragement from their advisers, feel so damaged by the process, and especially in some cases that a previous divorce seems to be a common factor. I have no idea whether having got over the immediate grief they have been encouraged to retain their sense of calling, and try again. It hardly seems to promote the idea of forgiveness and growth in Christ if they are excluded.

    All the best with your continued studies Liz.

  11. Cleo'smum says:

    Hiya. I have just recently had my BAP 2 weeks ago. My DDO prepared me most fantastically, and I also had some great advice from blogs such as yours…. thank you very much!
    I think that one thing I would add is that the week after, whilst waiting for the outcome, is pure torture! Over and over again I went over things in my mind thinking, Oh Cr*p, did I really say that?! And the pastoral interview especially really opens you up and makes you feel pretty vulnerable.
    So I was very grateful that I had booked some fun things with some lovely friends after mine. I had a macaron baking lesson, and a spa day, to relax before going back to work. So my advice to any future BAP-ers would be, afterwards, have fun. Plan some nice things in. Read a trashy novel. Surround yourselves with people you love, and people who love you. People you can be yourself with, who you can go “Arrrrrggggghhhh!” with. Because it is a crazy few days. Luckily my lovely DDO knew my angst because she rang me (from a teashop) with my result as soon as it came in. And the result was good, which I realised straight away from the smile in her voice.
    And so…. onwards to Rev school…..

  12. Thanks for the advice. I am starting my journey, being sent to see the vocations adviser.

    Do you have any advice?

  13. Thank you for this. ( I was one of those searching Google for help )

    How long are each of the 3 interviews? And are they similar questions to what you’ve experienced throughout the process of brand new ones that you may never have thought about?

    • You’re welcome!
      Off the top of my head, I can’t remember if they were 20 or 30mins, but the BAP booklet on the CofE website ought to say. The questions weren’t unlike others in the process, but as ever, expect the unexpected!

      • Thanks for that!
        I have my BAP at the end of March and am very nervous about it all!
        Particularly the presentation/group discussion.
        I have no problem being myself in the interviews, that seemed to really impress my bishop, so they don’t frighten me as much. It’s just all the other stuff. Seems very intense?

        • It is intense, but that’s largely because everyone’s in the same position, in very close confines. It’s not easy to pretend that you’re not doing what you’re doing. If your BAP’s at Ely, I highly recommend getting out into the town – that saved my sanity!

      • 50 mins each

  14. Thanks for your blog especially the info and top tips. I go to my BAP in just over a week’s time and have just started to get the jitters, feeling cold at the thought of it all and feeling slightly emo! Any prayers welcome! Thanks 🙂

    • Good luck! I’m glad it helped, and I’ll certainly be praying. I think it would be weird if you didn’t feel emotional about it, it’s a big deal!

  15. Hi Liz
    Many thanks for your blog – its good to read yours and others experiences of going through this process. I am just at the start of my journey and feel excited and terrified in roughly equal measures! Everyone I have spoken to so far has been hugely encouraging! I just keep trying to tell myself to take one step at a time – now I have actually responded (having tried to ignore it for a number of years!) to what i believe is a call from God, I am trying to learn to trust Him to guide me on the path rather than getting ahead of myself! I have also decided to try to keep a blog (http://stodges.wordpress.com) of my experiences and am hoping this will help me to reflect and learn from the journey whatever the outcome…
    Thanks again
    Stephen

  16. Hey there – thanks for this great post.

    Though I’ve only just found this… wish I’d thought to have looked for posts before my panel (Though I’m CiW, so mine was slightly different!) Having said this, I’ve also written a post (which weirdly has the same name [almost] as this post!) but with a Welsh twist for those who are interested, which will form part of a series on this sort of stuff! My post is here for those interested: http://deanroberts.net/2014/07/24/so-youre-off-to-a-provincial-discernment-panel/

    Really cool to read all the comments and see where people are at!

  17. Thank you for this Liz. I have my BAP on the 9th March and am really starting to feel the nerves. It is great to have practical advise like take a cuddly cardie and something to watch. I’m planning what to take with me and I have to say it is reminiscent of packing my hospital bag when I was pregnant – same nerves, same conviction that I was going to stuff it up.

  18. Elaine Weaver says:

    I happened to come upon your site and then recognised your name from St. Mellitus. You spoke to our Beginning Theology group recently- excellent talk. I am going to my BAP on Monday at Woking and found your insights very helpful. My DDO is a man and we never got on to that what to wear subject. I think is good to know there are periods of inactivity so you can take music or something so you can chill.

  19. Just wanted to give you a very belated thank you. I read this before going to BAP in May this year and it most importantly made me laugh. It’s a tough process and the packet of digestives and can of G and T were a life saver.
    Thanks

  20. Hey Liz, I have just returned from a BAP and caused no end of amusement in the other candidates when I told them I had G&T in my room because your blog said to do so… When asked if I liked G&T, I had to say, “no.. I drink wine… but I wanted to have everything as perfect as I could get it.”
    What helped me most during my BAP was having someone on FB who knew what time I was having interviews and things and was praying for me. Whatever the result it was a challenging and healthy experience!!

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