So... I am home!! what an amazing but yet utterly exhausting few days. I wanted to write a report of the experience, partly to help me clear my head, partly to point people to so I don’t have to explain it 300 times (!) and also hopefully as an aid to those who might be going to BAP at some point in the future... Sorry it's a bit of an epically long post!!
So I went to Shallowford House, just outside Stafford, a beautiful old house surrounded by lovely countryside and well kept gardens, oh yes and a high speed rail link running 20 foot from the door all night long. (So if you ever need to go there, it is lovely but do take ear plugs!). The rooms were nice, plenty of space, warm and comfortable beds!
There were 16 candidates and 6 advisors and we were divided into 2 groups. The ‘secretary’, the lovely Hilary, was there to make sure everything ran smoothly, and boy did it run smoothly. Incredibly well organised, we all knew exactly where to be and when and with what and she was on hand to help if we needed it.
It was incredibly intense, I think partly because everyone mixes together so even at dinner the advisors are spread out on the tables and you are encouraged to speak to them when you can. And from the moment we arrived on Monday afternoon it was all go! Intro exercises first, then the ‘personal inventory’ (basically a 40 min session where you answer lots of open ended questions about yourself, under exam conditions! then straight on to supper and then 9pm evening prayer, after which a few of us went downstairs to the bar (I knew I wouldn’t manage it the following evening).. but by 10ish we were all heading up to bed! I didn’t sleep at all and not because of the trains, just think it was nervous energy and they did warn us this might happen but not to worry about it, which was a real comfort!
The following morning started with Communion at 7.30, straight on to breakfast and then straight into doing our presentations (we all had to prepare a 5 min talk and then chair a 13 min discussion, all timed to the second!). Rather annoyingly in my group 4 of us talked on the subject of social media and the church, (which I thought was a sure fire original winner) the last of which was mine...so I had to do some last minute changing of questions but it worked well as I was able to joke a bit about the things we had already discussed.
So by lunchtime my brain was a bit addled having concentrated so much for hours on end! I actually felt pretty grim after lunch and was a bit worried I was coming down with something but having had chats later with some others, I know several of them went and had a sleep, so I am pretty sure it was just the intensity of it all. I was desperate for fresh air, being an outdoorsy person it was awful being inside so much, so I took some paracetamol and legged down the drive for a walk, managing to get the best of the one hour during the day when it wasn’t raining and whats more saw a beautiful buzzard take off right in front of me (sure that was a sign!)
By the time I got back I felt heaps better and then was able to knuckle down to the pastoral letter (which is where you have to write a letter in reply to a situation they have given you, it was complex and there are things you need to make sure you cover), then on to my first interview. Thankfully the advisor was lovely and it was more like having a chat with a nice uncle! Then straight from that to evensong and then supper. At this point I was really struggling with a massive headache and the need to get some personal space! I don’t think I was very coherent at supper so I rather hope that doesn’t count against me. Anyway by 8, I was hugely thankful not to have an interview as some did, so I skipped evening prayer, went to my room, shut the door and snuggled up with the paper and chose to put all things BAP out of my mind. (For anyone going to BAP I do advise having times doing this you really do need to be able to put it all down for a while and breathe!)
So by the next morning I felt hugely better and also had more space as it was the last day. More prayer, breakfast and then the last 2 interviews, the first of which was the ‘vocational one’ which you absolutely have to ‘pass’!! I think I did ok and I feel that I was myself and gave a good account of myself, but the advisor was very straight and didn’t give anything away so really hard to know whether I should have said more (or less!) My last interview was at 2pm then straight into the closing worship. So any free time I had was filled with just going over the criteria and making sure I had points to make or reminding myself what I wanted to get across.
The people were all lovely, and a real sense of camaraderie as we were in it together. Advise for those going: do get to know people in your group on the first day/eve, it really helped with the presentations and discussions. I also found I didn’t feel so bad then being anti-social on the Tuesday. The advisors were all friendly and I really did start to understand that they are also under a lot of pressure, their time is much more full than the candidates, and on top of that they stay on another day to finalise the paperwork etc There were people from a wide range of traditions and for me it was lovely being out of the Chichester diocese and not having such a strong anglo-catholic emphasis, and realising that not all dioceses are like mine! Just a real balance I felt and I will definitely stay in touch with a few of the people I met there.
Coming away I initially felt such a sense of relief, it feels like this date has been hanging over me for so long! I will actually relish the time it takes until I know what the result is as I can be free with no future date hanging there. I don’t think I appreciated before-hand how much it had been weighting on me. I thought I was quite chilled about it but now it’s done I realise that I wasn’t at all! I also feel completely at ease because I felt that I was myself and I did all I could. There is nothing I could have read or studied that would have changed my answers, I had learned all I need to, read all I could and was true to myself. So if I don’t get through I won’t feel ‘ I wish I had said this or that...’ If I don’t get selected I know I will feel disappointed, because I am human after all, but I also feel very free in the fact that God is in control and if it’s not meant to be, then he obviously has other plans for me...