My pastoral and theological approach to this new initiative is that of a learner, wanting to learn new ways of being a leader of God’s people. What does it mean to be a ‘learner-priest’ in this new normal? How can I be a learner post-covid 19, as we consider its impact on two of the Lord’s sacraments, Eucharist and Baptism? When I was a chaplain resident at Duke University Hospital, I repeatedly used a prayer of guidance from Thomas Merton:
My Lord God,
I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think I am following your will
does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you
does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road,
though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always though
I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me,
and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.
I feel like this prayer is and will be helpful for me in this curacy and could be a way of living as a follower of Jesus. I am unsure what things will look like by the end of this program, but I am eager to cling to the Lord in the midst of it. Covid 19 has brought this new normal for me. Previously I had plans for myself but had to learn to allow God to be in control of my plans. Daily I am in the process of learning that God knows the end of the road and the details of my pathway. This prayer helps me to focus on God alone, as the source of my life and well being. Therefore, my pastoral and theological approach will be anchored in the contemplative and mystical spirituality of the Anglican tradition. The liturgical calendar will inform and shape my pastoral and priestly duties. I will endeavour to nest my learning goals and hope in the three seasons of the church calendar: Ordinary Time, Advent, and Lent.
St John’s, Wake Forest: A medium congregation, growing in numbers. It was recently reported that 97 new members were added in this church. My question as I enter this community is, How do they do it? Especially when the perception is that mainline churches are dwindling in numbers. What kind of preaching and pastoral care is required to sustain and influence this kind of growth? My understanding is that pastoral care is proactive and incarnational.
- Ordinary Time June-October: During this season after Pentecost, I am hoping to discover ways in which this community has embraced evangelism as a spiritual discipline. I am curious to know methods or strategies utilized for this growth. Perhaps they used resources formulated by the Jesus movement of the Episcopal Church or maybe it was organically generated.
- Advent Season November -December: I hope to facilitate a small group during the Advent season using The Way of Love model in light of the post 2020 elections.
- Lent Season February -April: I am hoping to facilitate a book discussion throughout Lent, maybe Michael Battle’s book Reconciliation or Desmond Tutu‘s book about forgiveness. As it concludes, I hope to invite visual artists to create temporary murals as prayer stations to display (around Wake Forest).
St. Titus’, Durham: A smaller, historically black congregation with a historical connection with St Philip’s. I am happy that these churches and their hospitality enabled me to pursue the discernment to the vocation as priesthood.
- Ordinary Time: Participate in campus ministry at NCCU as it relates to Transformation Tuesday and engage the student population with the Good News of Jesus. I would also love to connect students with the food outreach ministry at El Buen Pastor Episcopal Church.
- Advent Season: I would love to facilitate a small group which also incorporates prayer walks around the neighborhood.
- Lenten Season: Explore St Philip’s and St Titus’ historical relationship, finding new ways of partnership (how does racial reconciliation look within local Episcopalian churches). Maybe a visit to the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama and pilgrimage to Atlanta MLK museum to facilitate a dialogue about creating beloved communities.
Chapel of the Cross Chapel Hill: Larger congregation, several clergy/staff, university town. I carry the question: What does team ministry look like? I am hoping to learn administration and managerial skills to be an effective leader/captain in such a large ship. Areas I would like to learn in:
- Team Ministry: I would like to observe and learn about vision casting and development in order to be able to lead efficiently. I am hoping to be exposed to the administration, coordination and communication in a large system and observe its effectiveness. As this will be my final year of being a learner priest, my hope is to integrate all I have learnt in the past two years as a curate. What does it look like to be a rector of a larger congregation? What skills are needed and required to be ‘second nature’ for priests?
- Global Mission/ partnership: I am hoping to take a pilgrimage with a group of people to South Africa in my last year of my cohort, since Chapel of the Cross has a pre-existing partnership in Southern Africa (Chapel of the Cross at Kwasa Spring in South Africa). It will be good to get participation from each of the congregations in the curacy (St John’s, St Titus’ and Chapel of the Cross), as we progressively get them to think about racial reconciliation. Also, the Diocese of North Carolina has a partnership with the Diocese of Botswana. This group could quickly visit those ministries to see those partners without compromising our intention. We can learn from South African Anglican spirituality as championed by Emeritus Archbishop Desmond Mpilo Tutu, visit the Apartheid Museum, and various entities that would enhance the understanding of reconciliation in this context. Maybe this could be seen as the capstone project of my reimagining curacy.
- Campus Ministry: I would love to walk along with the Campus Missioner and see and learn ways in which students are being engaged and how the Good News is being shared with this transient community. Furthermore, I would like to look at the role of hospitality in student ministry and how sharing a table facilitates relationships, within the dynamics of the table. (Host-guest dynamic in a constantly changing community. Who becomes host, who becomes guest? Leadership development within this context.)