Reimagining Curacies began in wonder. How could a diocese help prepare priests for ministry in the church of the future when we don’t know what that church will look like? What are the kinds of experiences that those clergy might need? What virtues should they have cultivated? What skills should they possess? What imagination must they have for the work and role of church in society?
Each of those wonders became conversations, beginning with a small group consisting of Bishop Samuel Rodman, Canon Catherine Massey and the Rev. Nathan Kirkpatrick of Alban at Duke Divinity School. Quickly, their conversation expanded to include six others who had vision and hope for the church of the future. From these conversations, an initiative began to take shape. What if a traditional means of Anglican formation could be reimagined for our time and the future? What if we rethought curacies? Those conversations led to what would become a grant proposal to Lilly Endowment, Inc., as part of their Thriving in Ministry initiative.
The critical elements of the proposal were established and refined in those conversations.
Curates would need experience not in one congregation but in a variety of congregations over a number of years. At the same time, they would need to serve in a single community so that they could see how diverse congregations engage in ministry in that community from their own strengths. They would need support to learn the lessons that their ministries were teaching them; they would need wise mentors, spiritual directors, and coaches. Given the nature of the program, they would need help saying hello and goodbye three times in three years. They would need to lean on each other as colleagues and friends.
Congregations, too, would need support. Clergy would receive their own coaching and spiritual direction to help them integrate the gifts of a curate into their congregation’s life. Congregations would need help knowing how to scale expectations of a curate who would be fully present for a year but then move on.
Likewise, the Diocese would need to develop ways of learning from the curates and congregations – about what they were experiencing, about their successes and struggles. We would also have to find ways of sharing these lessons with the wider church while also encouraging other experiments in formation for the future.
After the proposal received funding in 2018, the original conversation team that had created the grant proposal was expanded to include others who could help implement the vision. This larger group was then subdivided into four working groups – Discernment & Application, charged with helping select congregational placements and clergy participants; Program, overseeing the learning dimension of the program; Learning & Evaluation, responsible for assessing the impact of the initiative and for sharing our learnings; and Administration, coordinating the logistical, financial, and practical dimensions of the initiative’s operations. A fifth working group, an Executive Committee, was created to integrate the work of the other four.
Together, these five working groups have brought us to the point of having selected our first three congregations and our first cohort of curates.