Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Moving to Maryland and Crisis of Vocations

In December the family will be packing up and moving to Maryland where I will serve as rector of St. Alban's in Joppa, MD. As I am from that area, and was ordained in that parish, it is something of a homecoming. It goes without saying that I will miss everyone at my current parish of St. Francis in Virginia.

Every time a priest moves to a new parish in our church it sets off a chain reaction, where the bishop has to scramble to find a man to fill the position that is opening up. In as small a church as ours his options are limited, whereas we do not have enough priests, and whereas those who are available may not have the desire or ability to move out of state, etc. I was lucky at St. Francis because I brought in a priest from an outside jurisdiction to help out, and he was later received into our diocese, and he will be taking over for me, but he was literally the only man in the region available to take over as priest-in-charge. The parish probably would have liked a choice of who the new incumbent would be (who wouldn't?) but the reality of the situation is that there was no one else available. Other clergy and parishes are not even that fortunate.

This is why we need more men - especially young men - to commit themselves to serve as priests. Without vocations the church will die. Yet many men do not see serving as a priest - especially in continuing Anglican jurisdictions - as a viable career option because we are so small, have so few options, churches, etc. Young men want to give their lives to something that is organized, focused, thought-out, and has a plan for the future... and that has a future. Yet these qualities are what is often lacking in our churches. I am not even sure if our churches have an overall plan or strategy to attract young men to the ministry... I never hear anything about it at the few meetings we go to, or reports that are sent out. Inasmuch as we do not have a seminary - or even a dream or plan for one, and inasmuch as we have only the vaguest guidelines for preparing for Holy Orders, I can only assume that this is a very low priority for our churches.... and yet this is one thing that the church depends on to survive, and more important to fulfill her vocation to be the sacrament of salvation.


Diego said...

Hello there! I hear perfectly what you say about the vocations crisis. Many in England have the same feeling about the Church of England. It seems that residential training at a seminary is becoming a low priority of the Church's "Head-Office". It is a sorry business. But we can pray together Father, to send more priests in his church! The Holy Spirit will help us to chenge the Church's priorities.

J. Gordon Anderson said...

Amen! Prayer works.

Our diocese has a better program overall than a number of our sister dioceses I think, but it is still pretty inadequate. It consists (academically) of attending an accredited seminary, reading four or five books and writing short papers on them, meeting with the Board of Examining Chaplains throughout your course (about once a year), and then passing the canonical exams.

The difference of outlook that one gets from attending a Roman vs. a Presbyterian vs. an Episcopal seminary is huge, and "reading four books" does not smooth those differences over!