Archive for October 2009

Reflections on the Pickle of Parish Ministry for the New Associate Rector

October 28, 2009

From my first day in the office, the rector and the rest of my colleagues on the staff teased me about my growing list of “things I didn’t learn in seminary.” The list mostly included small practicalities—how to fix a paper jam, how to lock the big Narthex doors, and why one should never schedule a parish event on a Nebraska Cornhuskers game day (turns out, nobody will show up). Truthfully, however, I don’t think that any seminary could have ever fully prepared me for the day-to-day life of parish ministry.

~ The Rev. Elizabeth Easton, CDSP 2009

 

Liz Easton

The Rev. Elizabeth Easton

When I graduated from CDSP in May 2009, I joked that the commencement ceremony was just long enough for me to experience all five stages of grief in one sitting. There was the denial, of course (I don’t believe this is really over…), the anger (this is getting really, really long…), the bargaining (maybe I’ll come back soon for a DMin…), the sadness (I am going to miss these people so much!), and finally, the acceptance (my time here is really finished…). By the time that the dismissal was pronounced, hugs were shared, and bubbles were blown in St. Margaret’s Courtyard, I was emotionally on my way to Nebraska, where I was to begin my first ordained position at a large Episcopal parish in Omaha.

 

I began my ministry as Associate Rector at All Saints Episcopal Church on August 1st. From my first day in the office, the rector and the rest of my colleagues on the staff teased me about my growing list of “things I didn’t learn in seminary.” The list mostly included small practicalities—how to fix a paper jam, how to lock the big Narthex doors, and why one should never schedule a parish event on a Nebraska Cornhuskers game day (turns out, nobody will show up). Truthfully, however, I don’t think that any seminary could have ever fully prepared me for the day-to-day life of parish ministry. Long gone are the days of the simple country parson who sits in his office and reads theological journals while tinkering on his sermon (I’m not sure that day ever existed, actually). And in case you didn’t know, the whole Mitford series is a complete fantasy. Parish ministry is way faster paced than I ever imagined—a surprising reality that delights me with its challenges and small celebrations every single day.

 

All Saints Episcopal Church, Omaha, NE

All Saints Episcopal Church, Omaha, NE

While I struggled to remember the code to the office door and to locate the funky smell that greeted me in my office each morning (no seminary class could prepare me for that), I realized more and more every day how CDSP did prepare me for the big picture of my ministry.

 

A friend of mine once said that seminary is like the pickling process: When it’s all over, you can never be a cucumber again. I think that this is actually a good metaphor for what some theologians might call ontological change (bear with me here). We begin seminary because our communities have called us to explore a particular ministry. Like a cucumber that it is selected because it might make a good pickle, we begin a process of transformation where we are immersed in our tradition—in the life of prayer and discipleship—and where we submit to the Holy Spirit as She works through the Church. In a sense, we live for three years in the “brine” of Anglicanism, absorbing—sometimes subconsciously—that which is all around us. When we are finished, we are still ourselves, but we are also distinctly different. The things that we learned and experienced have changed us, and the lessons of our formation have pickled us through and through. Even though I never learned the first thing about fixing paper jams in seminary, I did learn what it means—deep in my bones—to minister professionally in God’s Church.

Perhaps the thing that I learned most—the strongest spice in the brine, to continue the metaphor—was the importance of the pastor as constant catechist. Every class that I took at CDSP pushed the idea that as professional ministers (whether lay or ordained), we must help those in our communities through the process of creating a theology that takes them beyond the church doors and into their everyday lives. The priest/minister does not tell, she shows—shows the community how to think theologically about their jobs, their relationships, and their faiths. With every conversation that I have in my parish—at coffee hour and in committee meetings—I hear the voices of my professors and feel their hands on my shoulder, urging and directing me to teach in every moment. The positive pressure to be a teacher in my community brings with it a drive to learn. Again, I hear the voices of my professors: Never stop being a student; Continuing education is a lifelong vocation and a daily commitment that must never go away.

Having arrived at the fifth and final stage of grieving the end of my seminary career, I realize that acceptance is not an end in itself. Although my time at seminary is most certainly over, I travel with the voices of my professors and mentors constantly whispering in my ears. I hope that they never go away. I could not have picked a better pickling operation than CDSP, where my transition to a different kind of cucumber felt gentle but complete, spicy and delicious. Okay, maybe the metaphor only extends so far…

Jumping in with Both Feet: A View from the Middle

October 17, 2009

“Before the workday starts, before any phone calls were made or email was checked, we started the day surrendering ourselves to God in prayer. Whoever showed up was the right group; whenever you got there was the right time.”         ~ CDSP Middler Ernest Morrow

This past winter the vestry of St. Philip’s Anglican church in my diocese (British Columbia) asked me to fill in for their rector, who was going to be on sabbatical for the summer. The understanding was that I would be able to help with everything but the Eucharistic consecration. Bishop James Cowan gave a thumbs up, Nancy Eswein, the field education supervisor at CDSP encouraged me, and I jumped with both feet!

It is actually only in hindsight that some sense of the jumping has emerged. At the time it felt good and right and in the flow, and this sense was with me all summer. I am so tremendously grateful to St. Philip’s for allowing me the space to preach and teach and lead and learn, as well as to CDSP for being so supportive of this slightly out-of-the-box opportunity for an MDiv student now in his “middler” year.

A few things struck me in particular during this my middler summer at St. Phillips. First, the parish itself has a wonderful model of implicit Christian formation. Each weekday morning at 8:30 people who work at the church, a few parishioners and a few people not from the church at all gather for twenty minutes of silent prayer. Before the workday, before any phone calls were made or email was checked, we started the day surrendering ourselves to God in prayer. Whoever showed up was the right group; whenever you got there was the right time. The bell rang at 8:30 and again at 8:50, and we all greeted each other and went off to our days. It is so simple and so easy and so profound to have this rhythm each day, each week, each month, each year.  It is hard to imagine this practice having anything but positive effects on the life of a parish.

This atmosphere of ministry flowing out of right relationship with God really inspired my work. Much of what I did revolved around trying to empower the baptismal ministry of the congregation. One of the richest developments was a spiritual formation group intentionally comprised of lay people who met to explore different ways of making Christianity a way of life rather than just a system of belief. The group was formed with the explicit intention of the participants themselves facilitating future groups in the parish. I really felt that it was very helpful that I was able to relate to this group as a fellow lay person. It brought up a lot of questions about how we think of priesthood and our roles in community.

CDSP Middler Ernest Morrow and his wife Jeannie surrounded by the love of the St. Philip's community

CDSP Middler Ernest Morrow and his wife Jeannie surrounded by the love of the St. Philip's community

Adding to the fullness of the summer was the fact that I got engaged to my wife Jeannie on May 29th and married on August 16th. We were married during a Sunday morning Eucharis service at St. Philip’s. It felt for us like the real fullness of the sacrament of marriage. It was such an moving thing to have the congregation with whom we worshiped and whom we loved hold us in prayer and sacred space as we made our vows. It seemed to us fitting that the part of the Body of Christ that was our home would be witnesses and creators of the day along with us and that, like a baptism, the sacrament would be part of the regular, full weekly celebration of Christ’s resurrection.

I will certainly remember this past summer as the summer I truly jumped in with both feet. And I am so grateful.

Notes from a Roving Professor: Hodges-Haynes Professor of Liturgy Ruth Meyers on the Road to CDSP

October 7, 2009
Prof. Meyers enjoy a few moments of casual collegial bonding with Sue Singer, Asst. Prof. of Ministry Development, during the annual faculty retreat.

Prof. Meyers enjoy a few moments of casual collegial bonding with Sue Singer, Asst. Prof. of Ministry Development, during the annual faculty retreat.

What a joy to be at CDSP! It’s been about as smooth a transition as I could have imagined. The timing of my move was dictated by two major summer commitments: teaching my last course at Seabury – a weeklong intensive in the joint Doctor of Ministry program with CDSP in congregational development – and General Convention. The D.Min. course, “Missional Liturgy,” is one I taught regularly in the Seabury program. Since I spent my 2008-2009 sabbatical working on a book about liturgy and mission, the course was a good opportunity to develop my thinking in conversation with students who are church leaders from around the U.S. and Canada.

In a nutshell, “missional liturgy” means understanding worship as an essential aspect of the church’s participation in the mission of God. By the end of my sabbatical, I had completed an article entitled “Missional Church, Missional Liturgy,” to be published in Theology Today next spring, and an article for Anglican Theological Review on leadership for missional liturgy. Eventually, that book will be complete! Soon after the course concluded, I travelled to Anaheim as a Deputy to General Convention from the Diocese of Chicago. As secretary to the Prayer Book, Liturgy, and Church Music Committee, I spent many hours in committee meetings, typing furiously to keep up with debate on the 63 resolutions assigned to our committee.

Prayer Book, Liturgy, and Church Music Committee leadership: me; Sam Candler, Dean of the Cathedral of St. Philip in Atlanta, and chair of the deputy committee; Wayne Smith, Bishop of Missouri, and chair of the bishop committee. Episcopal Life General Convention Daily, July 14, 2009

Prayer Book, Liturgy, and Church Music Committee leadership: me; Sam Candler, Dean of the Cathedral of St. Philip in Atlanta, and chair of the deputy committee; Wayne Smith, Bishop of Missouri, and chair of the bishop committee. Episcopal Life General Convention Daily, July 14, 2009

The Convention approved some very interesting new liturgical materials – Holy Women, Holy Men (a much expanded calendar of saints, to replace Lesser Feasts and Fasts, at least on a trial basis), and Rachel’s Tears, Hannah’s Hopes (prayers and liturgies for healing from loss related to childbearing and childbirth). Since I served on the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music last year, it was good to see this work to its completion. Most gratifying for me at Convention, though, were the steps we took toward more fully including gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people in the life and ministry of the church, while also reaffirming our commitment to full participation in the Anglican Communion. Over the past triennium, I have worked on these issues with a network of theologians, bishops, and other church leaders called the Chicago Consultation. I was particularly impressed with the generous and respectful conversations over the course of the convention. And it was a special joy to host events with guests from overseas.

After the excitement – and grueling pace – of General Convention, I had about 2 weeks with my husband Dan Prechtel to finish packing our home in Evanston, Illinois, and prepare for the move west. Somehow, it all got done – sorting, organizing, multiple trips to various recyclers, and countless trips to the dumpsters.

Dan Prectel checks out petroglyphs on the way to CDSP

Dan Prectel checks out petroglyphs on the way to CDSP

Our drive west was a good opportunity to recover. Though I’ve spent a little time in the mountain West, I saw parts of the country I’ve only flown over. The desert landscapes were amazing, and the petroglyphs at Grimes Point in Nevada were awesome.

And then, we arrived! I have been warmly welcomed by faculty, staff, and students, and we are learning our way around the East Bay, and around CDSP.

Editor’s Note: Professor Meyers hardly took a breather once she got to Berkeley. You can see her in action in the MDiv classroom in two short video clips on the origins of confirmation below or by clicking here to visit CDSP’s new YouTube channel.