If you’re considering a life in ordained ministry, you’re bound to have loads of questions. We’ve tried to answer some of them here, but please email us if there's a question we haven't answered.
WILL PEOPLE THINK I’M STRANGE IF I GO FOR ORDINATION?
Probably! But don’t let that put you off. Many people thought that Jesus was odd! Being a Christian is deeply counter-cultural, and being a priest is a very visible sign of that. But once people get over the initial interest, it opens up the way for truly life-changing encounters.
HOW OLD DO I HAVE TO BE TO BE ORDAINED?
People aren’t normally ordained before they are 23, and won’t start going through the formal process until they are 18. There’s no minimum age for thinking about these things though, and we’ve got lots of ways to help and support you however young you are!
CAN WOMEN BE PRIESTS?
Yes, women can be deacons, priests and bishops in the Church of England.
CAN PRIESTS GET MARRIED?
In the Church of England, yes—either before or after ordination.
DOES IT MATTER HOW LONG I’VE BEEN A CHRISTIAN?
Not necessarily. Many young people start to think about their vocation at the same time as they become a Christian. But it is important that you have spent time praying and thinking in some depth about both being a Christian, and what it might mean to be a priest.
IS ORDINATION FOR LIFE?
Yes. Once you have been ordained as a deacon, priest or bishop,that can never be undone. There are lots of ways though that you might live out that calling. Many clergy work in running parishes, whilst others might be a chaplain to a school, a hospital or a prison. Some people have a ‘day job’ and live out their vocation that way. And callings change – some are called to parish ministry their whole life, whilst others minister in a variety of settings.
WHAT DOES A PARISH PRIEST DO ALL DAY?
Most clergy will begin and end their days by saying Morning and Evening Prayer in church. There’s usually a bit of admin to do and emails to answer. You may have to take an assembly at school, or visit someone who is sick or going through a difficult time. There are often meetings with people you work with, like Sunday School teachers or the parish treasurer. You may take communion to people in a nursing home, or visit a local community project or youth group. And of course, there are sermons and services to prepare. Amongst all that, you’ll spend some time reading the Bible or theology. Each day is completely different, and you certainly won’t be bored!
WILL I GET TRAINING TO BE A PRIEST?
Yes. It starts before you are ordained, either by studying full time in a college, or on a part time course. This stage usually lasts two or three years. You’ll learn lots of theology, as well as the background to lots of the practical skills you’ll need. After ordination, you’ll work for another three or four years with a much more experienced priest. He or she will continue to support and teach you, as will as completing more training alongside others ordained with you. The Church of England will pay for all the training for you.
DO MY SCHOOL OR UNIVERSITY GRADES MATTER?
Being a priest can be an intellectually demanding role. There’s a lot of theology to learn to help you to articulate faith to the people around you. During your training, you’ll be expected to work hard on academic work to make sure you learn as much theology as you can to set you up for your ministry. This doesn’t mean you’ll be turned away if you find academic study difficult though. If the church recognizes your calling, they’ll help you to learn in the best way you can.
CAN I CHOOSE WHERE I WORK?
Often the place where you first work to continue your training (your curacy) will be in a place that you and your bishop will decide together. Afterwards, your bishop may have an idea about where he or she thinks you might be called and suggest jobs to you. Or, you might have a very firm idea yourself, and then you can just go ahead and apply!
CAN I CHANGE DIOCESE?
Yes, once you’ve finished your curacy you may want to stay in the same diocese, or you may feel called to another part of the country or Anglican Communion.
WILL I GET PAID?
Yes, if you decide that you’d like to be in stipendiary ministry. This means that the Church of England will pay you each month so that you don’t need to have a job to support your ministry. Most full time roles are stipendiary. Some people are Self-Supporting Ministers, which means they use money for another job or source to support their work.
WHERE DOES A VICAR LIVE?
In a vicarage or rectory, which is a house owned by the church in the parish where the priest lives. You won’t have to pay rent to live there, and the church pays for some of the bills as well.
WHY BE A PRIEST WHEN SO FEW PEOPLE GO TO CHURCH NOWADAYS?
It’s all the more reason to be one! Although in lots of places church attendance is falling, in lots of places it's going up. Priests spend lots of their time with people who don’t come to church, trying to bring God into their lives and reflecting the values of his kingdom.
SHOULD I TALK ABOUT IT WITH MY FAMILY AND FRIENDS?
Yes, if you feel ready to. You’ll probably be surprised by how much support and encouragement you get from them. Sometimes families and friends might find it difficult to understand why you’re choosing such a different path in life, and so its important to talk with them to help them understand..
I’VE BEEN BAPTISED, BUT NOT CONFIRMED—DOES IT MATTER?
People are always baptised and confirmed before they are ordained. It’s all part of the Church’s understanding of how we become full members of Christ’s body. If you haven’t been baptised or confirmed yet it doesn’t mean that you can’t keep exploring ordination, but it will mean that you’ll need to explore confirmation with your vicar at the same time. Candidates from other churches need to be received into the Church of England before they can be ordained.
SHOULD I BE GOING TO CHURCH EVERY WEEK?
Ideally, yes. Gathering together each Sunday with a worshipping community is central for all Christians. It’s also not a bad idea to offer to play a part in the church’s leadership as well, whether that’s reading lessons or helping with Sunday School.