Magdalen Smith: Steel AngelsThe Church of England puts people forward for ordination based on nine criteria. Those criteria form the basis for this 2014 book by Magdalen Smith, who is the new Diocesan Director of Ordinands (DDO) for the Diocese of Chester.

Such a book could potentially be extremely dull. It could end up reading like an interminably long ‘person specification’, with essential and desirable characteristics of the successful candidate sprawled out for page after page. It could be like this or this, but only longer.

Mercifully, that is not the approach of this book. Rather than stating what the criteria are, Smith instead shows us what they look like. Vivid images, such as ‘steel angels’ (a reference to The Angel of the North) are combined with real-life anecdotes to give us an attractive portrait of the kind of person the criteria are intended to select. As such, I found the book had the effect of opening up possibilities and stimulating my imagination, rather than restricting and narrowing, as dry criteria can easily do. It makes me want to pursue ordination, rather than just giving me a huge list of reasons why I might not be suitable.

The book has the fairly standard parish priest in mind; it might not be so relevant for people serving or seeking to serve in less typical contexts.