First Step and the Consiliari

Wife and son have the bug and went out late to the midnight after thanksgiving of luck. I am far too old for that madness.

I had my first meeting with my priest and formally announced my intention to enter discernment. Or, in the lingo, "articulated my call." I really don't like the "call" term. I mean, St. Paul, blinded for three days in Luke's account; now that's a call. Surely, Peter, fishing when Jesus shows up and says follow me; that's a call. My own complex process of discernment? Not sure if the term fits.

I said a long time ago, right here on this blog, that I'd only enter ministry if 1) I had the desire 2) others had the desire for me and 3) circumstances permitted. I actually think number 2 has been the case, quietly the case, around me at my parish for some time; I'm sure I'll get the chance to explore that more deeply. Right now number 1 is pretty much still the case for me. I am trying to be very careful, analyze my self and my motivations skeptically as I go. I am good at doing that.

Number 3 will not become known for a long, long time. And the really important, the critical piece, of 2 is the same. Meaning, the Bishop and the Diocesan Committee on Ministry and a therapist and a doctor and a psychiatrist and the Standing Committee and I don't know who else. The leaders of the Diocese and professionals at sifting people: they will have to agree. I actually think it might be less work to become a naval officer on a submarine. Or it is something along those lines.

Now, for the consiliari. I have no idea if that word is spelled right and no desire to look it up at the moment. I laid around sick recently for a day and watched all 3 Godfather movies in one day. There, the consiliari (that may be the singular don't speak italian) were advisors to the godfather. Funny, I know. But since I ended my relationship with my therapist; well, since she retired and I haven't yet found the need to get another one...I have 3 consiliari, not counting my wife. Let's say, C1, C2, and C3. These are all men in whom I confide and have known for years. I have a C4...have not told him about this yet.

C one through three are all spiritual men of different hue. One, evangelical, one, contemplative/recovery, one, recovery spiritual in ways I still don't know fully. But each of these men know me very well.

One, when told, said: congratulations, fantastic, I think you'd make a great priest...that was nice to hear; I respect this man's viewpoint very much.

Another said: something positive, great, good for you; I work with this one and I think he does not want me to leave my job but he understands my yearning for deeper meaning in work. He understands how community college keeps you so busy there is little room for any real intellectual growth.

The third said: whoa; be careful. And he had a very provocative suggestion. Since my call finalized, centered, cemented maybe after Diocesan convention, after the energy of a few hundred episcopals in one place, he told me I should leave my little, struggling country parish and drive a bit do a much larger, thriving one. Do work there, lay ministry in a community that size, then see. This is a powerful idea.

For now that my priest and I must meet regularly over months, not that, get this, I must read every book in the bible as part of my initial discernment; my priest and I will be spending some time together. His initial recommendation, and I hate to go on with mafia imagery, is deeply important. He must get to know me and my qualifications, strengths and weaknesses, in every area, before he recommends me to the Bishop. And perhaps someplace in this conversation I may have to tell him: while we have made friends and experienced real growth in our little church, it has slowly shrunk, mostly from deaths, since we got there. I was put into vestry very quickly really. We've tried hard to get it to grow but for a number of reasons, new members have come very slowly. And the oldsters are locals, mountain bred people. Nice enough, but very different from my wife and I who were raised in the very big city and always enjoy visits back. We went pretty far to one extreme moving out to where we are; our next home will likely be something in between the woods and the urban desert we grew up in.

So. C3 makes a good point. Now, I don't really know if that would do it for me; if my call to priesthood, which I still feel, would be satisfied by lay ministry alone. If lay ministry would really utilize all my gifts to their fullest. It is very complicated in that a parish must launch a candidate. The rector must recommend you, but also the parish commmission on ministry and the vestry. In short, a parish and its leader present the candidate to the Bishop after a year or two of active service and discernment in the parish.

Now seems like an awfully bad time to leave. And I don't know, I don't think, our rector understands where the challenges have been for my wife and I. It has not been all bad! When it comes to theology my priest and I have similar views on many things. The two priests who got my wife and I into the E church, from two different parishes some distance apart...both have left the ECUSA and started "Anglican" branches over the installation of Gene Robinson. In brief, both these men ministered to my wife and I very much but I am glad as hell we don't go to either of their churches.

I will just have to take this one step at a time. I am about halfway through Genesis (I read most of the bible for EFM a couple years back) and see my rector again in a couple of weeks. Always careful about serious decisions, I don't mind a longer discernment. If it takes a year to send the Bishop a letter, I'm okay with that. For it's true the high energy of convention may not match parish work at all. Even in a larger and vibrant church. And I can go to seminary for a degree in NT without the ordination track. Oh, my decisions why I entered discernment are so complex...I will share them another time.

Thanks to all who read. And happy thanksgiving to all as well. Much love.


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