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Rising numbers in ordination training
19/10/17

The Church of England recently released figures showing that the numbers of people entering into training for ordained ministry is at a record high. The figures have been released as the Church of England steps up efforts to increase the number of candidates for ordination by 50% by 2020 as part of the Renewal and Reform programme.

National figures show that a total of 544 men and women started training for ordained ministry this autumn, an increase of 14% on last year and the highest figure for 10 years, according to statistics from the Ministry Division of the Church of England. 

Women make up more than half of those entering training. This year there are 274 women ordinands, the biggest intake of women ordinands for a decade, and an increase of 19% compared to last year. At the same time, the number of young ordinands, in the under 32 age group, rose by nearly two fifths, and now accounts for 28% of the total.

Locally, The Rev’d Ellie Clack, Diocesan Vocations Adviser is encouraged by the numbers of people exploring ministry in this diocese but says we still have some way to go to encourage and enable all those who may be called to ordained ministry. She says:

“Vocation is essentially about the exploring of God’s call; who God wants us to be and what God wants us to do. Too often we have left this process to emerge organically (and in some cases, not at all) and the church is now recognising that a more proactive approach is needed, urgently. Clergy have an important role to play in encouraging and enabling vocation in others and we would love to see clergy increasingly foster that approach in their own contexts and communities.”

There are many people exploring vocation in the diocese at different stages and in different places, some in the formal process (currently 26 people) looking specifically at ordained or Reader ministry, whilst others are in earlier conversations with their incumbent, curate, chaplain or other trusted people. Once a candidate and their incumbent/chaplain are ready, the diocese provides a formal discernment process that is designed to be robust, prayerful and enriching to those willing to offer themselves.

One Coventry Diocese ordinand in training reflected on working with a Diocesan Discernment Adviser in the formal process. He said the Adviser was:

“experienced and had training to help me discern my call, clarify the process and pray through the challenges. Having a formal and diarized time to meet provided a framework and a sense that the process was moving forward… this whole experience facilitated deeper exploration in a caring atmosphere.”

Another ordinand in training spoke of her sense of calling:

“We all feel God's presence in our lives, sometimes really close and sometimes not so. For me God's call to ordained ministry has not been trumpets blazing full on 24/7 all the time. At times it has been in the quiet voice in the prayerful stillness and sometimes there is no voice at all-but the calling is still there.” 

She went on to reflect on the process of discernment in the diocese:

“The vocations discernment process will look at the trumpets blazing call, [but] will actually spend time prayerfully examining the "quiet" or "silent" times too. It is in these times where I have found myself not doubting God's call on my life as such, but more my ability to live up to that calling… The discernment process not only tests God's call on us but also helps us to work through our own doubts and fears.”

Many of the people who are currently in the formal process, and those about to enter it have had contact with vocations initiatives such as Young Women: Your Call and Nudge@thepub as well as attending the regular Vocations evenings held three times a year in the diocese. Over the coming year there will be further opportunities to invite people you know to vocations events as well as the ongoing support and encouragement from the vocations team in the DTP.

Ellie concludes:

“The rise in numbers nationally is a great encouragement and an indicator that God is still very much in the business of calling people into these specific forms of Christian ministry. We want to do our part in resourcing the Church of England, both in this diocese and in releasing more Readers, priests and deacons, into the wider church to support stability and activity in God’s mission into the future."

If you are considering your own calling, please talk to your Vicar or Chaplain if possible, or contact the Vocations team directly if you have any queries. If you are a clergy person wondering how best to do the work and ministry of vocations and would appreciate some ideas or support, please also get in touch using the details below.

Called to Ministry?

Contact Ellie Clack - Ellie.Clack@CovCofE.org