Chasing the Collar

(Maybe you have picked up on this in my writing style, but I am finding these blogs increasingly difficult to write. I think that's primarily because they are venturing into the territory of my present--and hence unreflected upon--experience, but these last few topics have also required me to elaborate on motives which are often subconscious, and therefore not open to easy, step-by-step explanation. Explaining my decision to pursue the priesthood is probably the most difficult of the topics which I have addressed thus far, but here goes...)

If I were you, I would think that the next logical issue to address after why Tim is an Anglican would be why Tim would like to be an Anglican priest. As such, before I continue with the story, I'll take some time to address this question, which I am of course sure that you are presently asking (though probably only in the unspoken sort of way in which you ask questions of people posting blogs on the internet).

I have read that when one is writing application essays, etc., for the process of discernment for the Episcopal priesthood, it is a good idea to mention things such as how important it is for you to deliver the Eucharist (communion) to people, and how it would be impossible for you to live without preaching on Sundays. Those are, of course, some of the central public tasks of a priest, so it makes good sense that a person who wants to be a priest should be attracted to such activities. However, it would be a bit dishonest of me to suggest that it is simply the performance of either of those tasks that has attracted me to the priesthood. (I'm not against the Eucharist or homiletics, but, after all, theres been a healthy move within the Church towards the recognition of the ministry of laypeople, and I could certainly find a church where I could preach without being ordained, just as I could probably find somewhere that would allow me to bear the chalice for folks on Sunday morning.)

The Eucharist and the sermon have something to do with it, but they dont define it. To me, a priest is one who is committed to being a means of grace within a particular parish community. That is, they are ones who allow a truly Christ-originated unconditional love and forgiveness to flow through them to the community, as well as being ones who serve as a mouthpiece for a truly Christ-originated commitment to justice. Those characteristics are often communicated most directly in the sermon and Eucharist, but for me they are better seen as qualities of a persons being than tasks to be performed. I want to be a priest because I want to accept the responsibility to be the type of person who allows Christian love and justice to characterize their life.

Certainly one can do that without being a member of the clergy--the vows of a priest in many ways echo and grow out of the same vows that you take when you are baptized. However, I think that ordination carries with it certain advantages for someone like me. Not least, it allows you to make the pursuit of the goal of Christian love your lifes work: your paid vocation as well as your vocation based upon the vows you take at baptism and confirmation. It also represents recognition by the community of a personal responsibility for leadership in this area. It allows you to have a recognized voice within the Church, and it charges you with the responsibility to help the Church move in the direction that Christian love calls it. Practically, it also of course provides one with a recognized and traditional platform as a person through whom Gods grace flows, through (again) the sermon and administration of the Eucharist, but also through leadership within local, national, and international church structures, as well as in situations of spiritual counsel.

I am aware that these past paragraphs may make my readers of a non-Christian persuasion think that I am full of idealistic, slightly crazy, hyper-religious codswallop. Without denying the possibility that you're correct in that assessment, there is more that I would like to say. This is the point at which we should feel our way back into the story of my religious development.

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