If you are aged 18-30 why not spend a year serving God through the Ministry Experience Scheme.
The Diocese of Norwich offers a Ministry Experience Scheme (MES) based in parish churches rooted in different contexts in the Diocese. These parish placements fulfill the requirements of the Church of England Ministry Experience Scheme.
MES will enable you to give a year to God, and will provide time, space and support for you to reflect on the call of God in your life, and experience life rooted in a parish church. Depending on your interests, you will have opportunities to explore mission and ministry, learn in a supportive and encouraging environment, learn new skills, and develop projects in the parishes.
Alongside shadowing those working in parishes, the MES will offer the opportunity to do placements in specific contexts that may be of interest; for example, seaside parish ministry, or placements at the Cathedral, or with voluntary agencies. We will also offer vocational support, and provide skills-based training in leadership and theology to support you as you listen to the voice of God.
You can find details of the Schemes on offer this year at:
Read Ben’s story of what the Ministry Experience Scheme means to him.
“What do you actually do on a Ministry Experience Scheme?” and “So are you the new Curate?” are two of the most common comments I have had these last one and a half years on Ministry Experience Scheme (MES) placements in the Diocese of Norwich. The answer to the latter question is fairly straightforward, but there isn’t a simple answer to the first.
For any of you reading this who like myself are involved in full time ministry, you will know that the answer is ‘well, a bit of everything really.’ Some days I will be working with young people doing sports activities or playing pool and chatting in a Youth Café. Other days it will be giving lifts to people in the parish with accessibility requirements, cooking in our Community Café and singing in a care home alongside residents with dementia. Finding time for prayer and study is a hard but necessary task to achieve in the midst of everything else that goes on.
It has challenged me to think theologically – being placed in two different church contexts makes you really think about the ways you view the eucharist, mission, and the role of the church within community. And it has certainly been a time where my self-confidence has grown. Moving away from home and essentially starting from scratch has shown me that sometimes life is about being vulnerable and also about plunging yourself into the deep end. Particularly at the Youth Café’s that are run at Yare Valley Churches where I’m currently based – I found within the first week that none of the kids were going to go up and speak to me but that I just needed to take a plunge and get to know people.
And it has also been quite an eye opener into what goes on below the surface where you live. Last year when I was on placement at St Peter Mancroft, I did a bit of work – mostly once a week delivering food parcels for the foodbank, and the situations I came across in the areas I went to were really challenging to listen to. It makes you realise that a lot of people don’t have conventional lives and conventional living arrangements, but that life is often complicated and a bit messy, and in ministry, you have to meet people where they are.
But there are also some real delights that come with the job. It was a real joy to elect two child bishops from St Peter Mancroft last year and see hear them preach and meet Bishop Graham.
But perhaps the experience that has been the most valuable has been the way in which I’ve seen how everyone and everything in the church community fits together. Working in what is essentially full time lay ministry, exposes you to just what goes on during the week, from the people who value using the church space for private prayer, to those that volunteer working on church or churchyard maintenance to the meetings that go on where important decisions are made.
So as I prepare to (God willing) go forward to a formal panel to decide on whether to recommend me for training to the priesthood, I sit here wondering whether I could have done anything more formative to prepare me for potentially getting through. My advice to anyone considering going on a placement is just to give it a go. It won’t be easy, and it may show you a little about the sacrifice involved in following God’s calling, but may just be one of the most rewarding things you ever make the decision to do.
Ben Almond, Norwich MES participant 2021-2022
Read Ash’s story of how the Ministry Experience Scheme helped her discern her vocation:
“When I first found out about the Ministry Experience Scheme, I assumed it was a year leading towards ordination so I initially thought it wouldn’t be for me. God made it clear, however, that this was one of the paths in my journey. I, therefore, joined the Norwich scheme without any expectations, I was just looking forward to any experience I received.
“A highlight I had was witnessing the incredible roles women have in all aspects of the Church. As a young woman it has certainly been empowering to see everyone working together in the name of God; and having been surrounded by this inspiration every day I feel as though God is calling me towards things that I thought I’d never be good at. The year gave me the confidence to be able to seek bigger ways in which I can share God’s Good News.
“I’d always thought I had all personality types well processed in my head but living with others, and seeing them when vulnerable, has given me insight into the complexity of every person and living in a community. I’m thankful that through all the tension, awkwardness and discomfort, my world has expanded.
“I really enjoyed every theological module I went to; there have been many questions answered. My faith has deepened, and I’m eager to keep learning and getting to know Christ more.
“I can certainly say that I have enjoyed every bit of ministry I’ve been fortunate enough to experience, and I’m certain that I will always want to be a part of a Church community in any way, shape or form. Despite some difficult moments, the year has opened my mind and given me a clearer sense of God’s call. I met God every day on MES and every day my faith grew stronger.”
Ash Hobbs, Norwich MES participant, 2018-19
Could your parish or benefice offer a Ministry Experience Scheme?
If you are a parish (or group of parishes) interested in offering a MES to two or more participants please contact Fiona Haworth, our Ministry Experience Scheme Coordinator for an early conversation. She can give you more details of the requirements for a scheme, and advise you how to apply for a grant to assist with some of the expenses.