Wednesday, July 15, 2015

On Seminarians and their formation and Training — II, by The Rev. Peter J. Van Hook

Last week, I wrote about how a person moves through the usual process toward ordination to be a Deacon or Priest in The Episcopal Church. The process is the same for both, and is long and involves years of education, reviews, and interviews. The Orders of Priest and Deacon have distinct and important functions in the Church: It is helpful to see the Priest as the one who gathers the congregation for worship, and the Deacon as the one who equips, empowers, and sends members of the Church into the world in witness to Christ’s love. This week’s blog is about the two men who have been with us, and what the future holds for them and for us.

Postulants, Candidates, and Seminarians

As noted in my earlier blog the difference between a Postulant and a Candidate for Holy Orders is the point they are in the process toward ordination. One who desires to enter the process, an aspirant, applies to the Bishop for admission as a Postulant, which is essentially a period of extensive self-examination and discernment before one applies to be a Candidate. A Candidate, on the other hand, is considered to be in the final stages of preparation. It takes a significant action on the part of the Bishop and/or the Candidate to drop out of the process at this point.

In last week’s notes I failed to mention the important role of the Parish Discernment Committee, which is a small group of parishioners, usually appointed by the Priest-in-Charge, who spend several months meeting with an aspirant before they make formal application to the Bishop. I will say more about Discernment Committees another time, but they are critically important in the early steps of the process toward ordination.

All this leads me to describe the two men who are with us this summer, where they are in their different processes, and how they got there.

David Carlisle

David Carlisle came to St. Mary's Church when his wife, Arum Park, was appointed a visiting professor of Classics at BYU. They had become part of The Episcopal Church during graduate school in North Carolina (where they were confirmed by Bishop Michael Curry, now the Presiding Bishop-elect of The Episcopal Church). David grew up in rural New México in an unchurched family. His educational background is in the Classics: the study of ancient Greek and Roman literature and philosophy. After receiving his Ph.D. David taught for a year at Cornell College, a small liberal arts institution affiliated with the United Methodist Church in Mt. Vernon, Iowa, and then moved to Utah with the rest of his family.

David approached me shortly after they arrived to talk about his sense of call to ordained ministry, which had begun many years earlier. I formed a Parish Discernment Committee (consisting of Mary Allen Redd, Keith Jensen, and Chris Peper) and David met with them for nearly a year before asking to receive a formal endorsement from the Bishop's Committee of St. Mary's Church. He had been studying in the diocese’s ministry formation program, and meeting with various clergy throughout the diocese. He attended the (required) Day of Discovery, and subsequently took on the project of creating our St. Francis Garden in the front of the church.

Upon my recommendation, and the certification from the Bishop’s Committee, David applied for admission to the ordination process and was admitted as a Postulant for Holy Orders early in 2015.

Were this a more typical process toward ordination David would begin a three-year residential process at a seminary of the church. However, Arum has accepted a teaching position at the University of Arizona and the Carlisles will be moving to Tucson in August, and David will proceed with a longer (four years) but non-residential program at the Church Divinity School of the Pacific in Berkeley, California (CDSP). He will remain, officially, a member of St. Mary's Church and a Postulant of the Episcopal Diocese of Utah—which is not all that unusual, in that most seminarians have moved away from their “home” parishes.

Tim Yanni

Tim Yanni came into The Episcopal Church several years ago after being raised a Roman Catholic. He was living in Salt Lake City, and the church he attended was St. James, in Midvale. A few years ago he spoke with the then-Rector, John Williams, about ordination, which John readily supported. Tim went through the Day of Discovery and the usual interviews, but, because of various points of confusion in the process of applying for ordination, he was not immediately accepted as a Postulant. At the same time, he was encouraged by Bishop Hayashi to begin seminary at CDSP. Then, at the end of his first year of seminary, Fr. Williams resigned from St. James’ Church to take a position in New York, and Tim was left without a pastor and mentor. Bishop Hayashi approached me and asked that I take on that responsibility with Tim (although Tim’s “membership” is still at St. James; when it comes to the ordination process confusion is inevitable and certainly not unusual).

As Tim noted in this sermon on July 5, his original conception of ministry was primarily sacramental and pastoral. His experience at St. James’ Church and St. Mary’s has exposed several dimensions of ordained ministry that Tim had not recognized, and he has much appreciated the opportunities for pastoral and educational ministry that his time at St. Mary’s has afforded him. This summer he is enrolled in a program of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) at St. Mark’s Hospital, which is a full-time training and experiential program in pastoral care. This is required of all persons moving toward ordination, and is often stressful as one experiences pastoral ministry in its most challenging aspects: births, traumatic injuries, family dynamics, and death. (Just in the last week Tim has witnessed his first birth, his first death, and has done two baptisms—just in case you want to know what parish ministry is like!)

Upon completion of his summer training Tim will return to Berkeley to begin his third and final year of formal theological education. He has become aware of a sense of call to ministry in the Armed Forces (probably the Navy). I have already signed off on his ecclesiastical endorsement, but he must complete two years of formal pastoral ministry before he can be admitted to the chaplain training program. As is true of all seminarians at this point in the process, Tim does not know where he will land after graduation next June. He will continue to be a part of the life of St. Mary's Church even by extension, as we continue to hold him in our prayers.

Peter+

Next Week: Why are these two men here, and what are they supposed to be doing?

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