In some churches, when you're ordained a pastor, you're ordained to a certain role for a certain time. The ordination is a declaration of, "Yes, we see these gifts in you, and we want to formally call you to pastor us in these ways."
But in the Episcopal Church and many other traditions, ordination means something else. We are not ordained to a certain job at a specific place. We are ordained to the priesthood.
It's a lifelong vow that cannot be taken down and picked back up. It's also, ostensibly, a permanent change in the way we move through the world.
Ordination at St. Paul’s
Last year on February 3, Bishop Ian Douglas ordained me a priest in Christ’s one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church. Thanks to the pandemic, only ten people were allowed in the sanctuary. But a hundred others (maybe you!) joined us on Zoom. We projected their faces onto a screen, and I could really feel the presence of everyone there with us. Unforgettable.
Before I made my priestly vows, Bishop Ian said the following to me, reading from our Book of Common Prayer:
As a priest, it will be your task to proclaim by word and deed the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and to fashion your life in accordance with its precepts. You are to love and serve the people among whom you work, caring alike for young and old, strong and weak, rich and poor. You are to preach, to declare God's forgiveness to penitent sinners, to pronounce God's blessing, to share in the administration of Holy Baptism and in the celebration of the mysteries of Christ's Body and Blood, and to perform the other ministrations entrusted to you. In all that you do, you are to nourish Christ's people from the riches of his grace, and strengthen them to glorify God in this life and in the life to come.
It's that last part—"in all that you do"—that feels the heaviest and also the most holy. Being a priest is not just about what we do but how we do it.
That brings me to my next point.
"Part Time Priest"
I serve at St. Paul's half-time. With my other time, I'm a student at Yale Divinity School pursuing a second master's degree in New Testament; a podcaster for Yale Bible Study, a Pastoral Associate at Berkeley Divinity School; a sometimes-musician; and (most importantly) a wife, sister, daughter, and dog-mom.
Sometimes, people call me bivocational, being called as I am to both the church and the academy. But to me, it doesn't feel like two vocations. When I'm recording for my podcast or puzzling through the New Testament in Greek, I still feel like I'm acting out of my call to being a priest.
Can people do those things without ordination? Of course. It's not about how well I do these tasks but how I approach them in the first place. So I'm not a "part time priest;" I'm always a priest and serve at St. Paul's half-time. After all: "in all that I do," I am supposed to nourish and strengthen Christ's people.
Is that a ridiculously high ideal, of which I fall short absolutely constantly? Yes.
And yet, I feel sure of my call to keep trying to do so.
One Year of Priesting
In my first year, I baptized babies, and I performed my first wedding. I transitioned from Missional Curate to Priest-in-Charge, and I led my first vestry meeting. The thing that surprised me the most about all of this is how natural it's felt. I figured that, at first, I would feel kind of like I was faking it. Somehow, even when I have no idea what I'm doing as a priest, I still feel like I'm where I'm supposed to be.
But also, whenever I took off my collar, I kept being a priest.
Whether I'm drowning in Hebrew flashcards or blessing someone before they undergo surgery, whether I'm celebrating Eucharist or yelling at my dog for eating an entire tin of Christmas cookies... I'm still a priest. I still don't know quite what this means, and I suspect I will continue to figure that out for the rest of my life.
This week, I'm feeling especially grateful for the opportunity to serve at St. Paul's in this very first part of what will hopefully be a long career in the church. And I'm grateful for the power of the Holy Spirit that flows through our community and empowers me to serve you as best I can. Thanks be to God!