Thought for the Month

As we approach the season of Petertide Ordinations in the Church, I was reminded of my own discernment journey to the priesthood; several years ago now, I attended a Bishop’s Advisory Panel (BAP) retreat, after which the Church would decide whether or not to recommend me for training. Many of you already know that it was a relatively long road to this moment for me, and, upon arrival, our first task was to complete a simple questionnaire – the image above is the only question I still remember – and I can still remember leaving that room thinking, ‘well done, Sam, you’ve been here ten minutes, and you’ve already blown it!’ I could imagine the panel of advisors reading this abrupt answer and becoming the King Lear to my Cordelia; ‘Nothing?! Nothing can come of nothing, speak again.’ Rightly concerned that this gave the initial impression that I thought myself to be the very picture of perfection, I was given an opportunity to elaborate on my answer at a later point in the retreat. I explained that my response to this particular question had been slightly triggering and that I had regretted my lack of clarity; graciously, I was invited to say more:


At an earlier point during my discernment process, I had been strongly advised (it would not be kind or fair to identify this person) to try to ‘bury’ my life’s experiences and imperfections, in favour of presenting a shiny and infallible version of myself. Fortunately, as I wrestled with this, I was taught by my Spiritual Friend, that we are not supposed to ‘bury’ our flaws, but ‘display them proudly!’ I was helped to realise and understand that our experiences – including overcoming adversity, suffering hardships, and navigating missteps – make us stronger, and enable us to help (and minister to) others more effectively. My friend had humorously concluded by saying, ‘I think the world has had enough of perfect leaders.’


Of course, I recognise that I had not understood the true purpose, or intention, of the original question; but I think the point of my given answer is still important and true. I am less interested in worrying about that which I might wish I was not, but rather, I am always hoping to discover more of the person God has made me to become. I give thanks that I know my need of God, and that my sufferings have equipped me to help others in Jesus’ name.


You might feel like broken pottery sometimes – with the appearance of modern art – more superglue than clay – but there is beauty and uniqueness and strength to be found here. I thank God that they see the beauty in our stories – and are made strong in our weakness.


‘We are poor, but we give spiritual riches to others.

We own nothing, and yet we have everything.’ 2 Corinthians 6:10b (NLT)


‘You knit me together in my mother’s womb.

I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.’ Psalm 139:13b–14a (NRSVUE)


‘So, I’m delighted when I’m weak, insulted, in difficulties,

persecuted and facing disasters, for the Messiah’s sake.

When I’m weak, you see, then I am strong.’ 2 Corinthians 12:10 (NTFE)


Rev’d Sam Ellmore, curate