For anyone preparing to go to a Bishop’s Avisory Panel on Selection, I’ve got some top tips for helping the process go as smoothly as possible. This is not to do with ‘passing’ (see the second tip), but just some small things I either wished I knew, or was glad I did know!

So, in no particular order

  1. It really does do what it says on the tin – everything happened exactly as was stated in the booklet they send you.
  2. Remember it is not really like an exam or test – and to attend one with the concept of trying to pass is unhelpful. The advisors are there to discern, with you, if you are called to ordained ministry in the C of E. It’s more like a joint exploration.
  3. Similarly, the interviews are not something to be survived, but rather opportunities to share what you think, and what you think God and those who know you best have been saying to you.
  4. The Panel itself is pretty relaxed, and you’ll find probably 60-75% of your time is not time-tabled. Of course there’s the pastorial exercise and preparation to do – but go along expecting to have a lot of time free.
  5. … and following on from this, take a trashy book to read (or whatever helps you switch off). This was probably the single best piece of advice I was given. 🙂
  6. Take change. I went to Shallowford House, and the bar and shop had an honesty box for putting money into. Having a ten pound note didn’t really help when it came to paying my 3.60 bar tab*! And speaking of money, my taxi fare was 11 pounds, rather than 7 pounds like the letter said.
  7. There may be “observers” at your Panel. These are not people who are there to ensure fair play, but rather future advisors or DDOs who are “learning the ropes”. As they play no part in the discernment process (whether being assessed or assessing) they are great to have an ordinary conversation with!
  8. It doesn’t really seem to matter when you arrive – I arrived about an hour before the time we were told we had to be there by, and I was the last but one! That said, the earlier you arrive the more time you have to fill (I didn’t see anyone else until just before the start of the first session – but I did have time to find the loos, the bar, and the chapel, and have a bit of a nose).
  9. Oh yes – everyone used first names all the time, and there were as many dress styles as there were people there (suits right through to more or less jeans and a polo-shirt). I would personally feel it’s worth looking like you’ve made some effort, but that’s just my opinion.
  10. Last of all – try and enjoy it. My panel was full of hugely interesting people (both candidates and advisors), and I learnt all sorts of things in the group discussions and conversations over mealtimes.

*The “bar tab” was actually us each scribbling on a bit of loo paper, that we totted up at the end and put in the till.