Of late I have found myself looking through Episcopal blogs for those who are in seminary. I have also found two Episcopalians going through or interested in CPE. I find myself looking at those and wanting to say something – something intelligent, something supportive, something.
This reflects to some extent a natural pomposity that was a part of my predisposition for priesthood. At the same time, it also represents hope for the future of the Church generally and of the Episcopal Church in particular. I am hopeful for the future of the Episcopal Church, even in these tumultuous times; and the voices I’m hearing, or at least the thoughts I’m reading on those blogs is, by and large, encouraging to me.
And, so, it also represents a desire to help. I’m sure my prayers for blessing are well received. I hope my thoughts and suggestions are also well received.
Part of this is my conviction that it is the responsibility of the Church to help people find their vocation as early as possible. For those who might feel a vocation to orders I think this is especially important. And once we have discerned as a Church a vocation, whether to orders or to another ministry, we have the responsibility to support those persons in growing into wholeness in those ministries. We baptize infants and are called to take responsibility with parents in raising them to wholeness in the faith. We are called in the same way to help those discerning their ministries to grow.
This has not been my experience of every professional path. Some seem to believe the strongest candidates are identified and nurtured through conflict and competition. Frankly, I find this decidedly un-Christian. But worse I find it largely a failure. Focusing on the best and the brightest, and believing in winnowing out not only those truly inadequate but also those who are adequate but not spectacular, creates a very narrow sense of how professions are lived out, and how different people may be served. As in a healthy ecosystem, it is the diversity that will best serve us, and not monoculture, however efficient.
I think it important that we seek for all persons to succeed. That means helping those who might not fit some narrow definition of “the best and the brightest” see success in discovering the broader, sometimes other, avenues to which God is calling them. It is not a question of whether they have vocations; God calls to all of us. It is a question of how each of us can help each of them hear God’s call more clearly and respond more effectively.
I’m not about to retire, but I’m already planning (my wife and CFO will not let me fail). Sooner or later – and at this point in my career it’s sooner – I will turn the Church over to others, even in the small extent that I am part of running things today. I find reason to hope in where I see the Episcopal Church going in the blog thoughts of my younger Episcopal colleagues.