It was a wet Monday morning, and I went with Debbie our ordinand for a meeting with the Powers That Be at the diocese to express some of her dissatisfactions with the way the process of settling her curacy was handled, as you may recall. The Powers manifested themselves on this occasion in the form of the Director of Ordinands and the Director of Training, clad in the kind of comfortable, approachable clothing – pastel pullovers and long-loved jackets - which clergy now all seem to wear unless they’re a bishop. It doesn’t fool me, I can tell you.
A lot of the discussion centred on whether or not Debbie had had a particular form which is supposed to constitute part of her Final Report and on which ordinands indicate something about their aims for their title parish - Catholic or Evangelical, rural or urban, within 5 miles of a Waitrose, that sort of thing – and who was supposed to ensure that she got it. ‘The national understanding is that the initiative in placing ordinands rests on the training institution’, said the Director of Ordinands, and said it repeatedly through the meeting. I thought this was less important than the fact that Debbie’s future, in or outside this diocese, had been settled without a word being said to her about it, and asked how the picture of the initiative resting with the colleges fitted with the parallel one of the training department here settling placements for local ordinands. 'I do try and speak to the ordinands', said the Director of Ordinands, 'but sometimes they're in Bristol and sometimes they're in Durham. The training institutions are supposed to be best-placed to make a judgement on what's best for them.' The person in question, of course, was barely a 15-minute drive away, but I let that rest.
If anything was clear from the discussion, it was that things weren’t clear. It is perhaps not possible to offer a set of accessible criteria for settling curates in parishes because parishes, and their incumbents, are complex and quirky and there are important factors which feed into the decision-making process which can’t really openly be talked about, such as when this or that incumbent might be about to move on or (despite what they say in public) can’t work with someone of the opposite sex. But the boundaries between the responsibilities of the colleges and the diocesan authorities could do with some clarification: and ordinands themselves could at least be talked to. That was all I expected to get, and that’s what was said.
Debbie is now safely provided with a title post in another diocese, so none of this matters to her, apart from the relief of saying her piece. But who knows, I may one day be a training incumbent to another ordinand, and the piece said could easily matter then.