Category Archives: Formation

New GOE Exam Question Proposal

As Marshall reminds us, the General Ordination Exams are now underway. I enjoyed Marshall’s observations about Exams then and now and was struck by his rumination on what would signify preparation for the clerical task today. I was struck, too, by his observation that the more recent questions are more academic than in his day.

As I was reading it, a question popped into my head that seems both useful, practical and a good measure of what candidates both should know and should be able to do. Here it is:

You can use your Bible and your Prayer Book; otherwise, no other outside resources. You have a full 8 hour day. Assume that tomorrow is The 3rd Sunday after Epiphany in Year A. Now–write a sermon for tomorrow that doesn’t suck.

Needless to say, I don’t expect to see this one on next year’s exam—but I can always dream…

Anglo-Catholics: The Next Generation

I’m so loving this!!:

My Mass Kit+Booklet

Kit includes twelve cleanable pieces and a detailed companion booklet contained in a durable, canvas case. Crucifix, Chalice, Thurible, Finger Bowl, 2 Cruets, 2 Candles, Paten (cotton/polyester blend), Corporal & Purificator (cotton cloth), and play Hosts (foam). All other pieces are cotton/polyester blend, carrying case is nylon.

Ages 3-8

MagnifiKid! included while supplies last

In case you didn’t catch that—PLUSH THURIBLE!!

My kids already play church and they steal crucifixes and candles and start co-opting drinking cups, etc.  They would adore this (when they can get it away from us). When ordering, though, we just won’t tell them that our kids are girls…

Rethinking Clergy Education, Part N+1

AKMA points to a brief yet very interesting post on the future of Higher Ed given the realities of communication in the Internet Age.

My response is: well…no.

Learning is more than either the note-taking process or the data accumulation process especially when it comes to the formation of informed and effective clergy. I’d suggest that it has more to do with being grounded in foundational habits and absorbing an ethos and the book-learning is only a small part of that process.

I’ve come to identify as the most important parts of my seminary education the people I met, experiences I shared, and on-going connections I’ve maintained. A distance learning program doesn’t do well at facilitating any of these—there’s a fundamental embodied, incarnational component that’s missing…

Podcast Bleg

As M is responsible for Christian Ed at the parish and I think I’m being roped into some sort of official position, I’ve been thinking recently about podcasts. We don’t get a whole lot of participation from adults in our education programs, and one factor is weekday travel; quite a number of our parishioners do heavy-duty international travel and aren’t consistently available.

I’m thinking of starting a bimonthly Bible study of the Psalms. It’d be modular—one psalm a week so there’s a natural beginning and end—and people could drop in as they could.  But if I could podcast it… Even the international travelers could have the option of following along if they can’t physically be there.

So—what can y’all tell me about podcasting and churches? What’s the best way to make it accessible—post it at the church’s site or do an iTunes thing, or what?

Clergy Education/Clergy Graduation

I was listening to NPR this morning and a segment ran on job availablity. Of course, the news is not good in an economy of this sort. What did prick up my ears was discussion technical/trade schools.  One of the scenario that cropped up was people going to technical school to gain marketable skills either before or during doing to college for a regular 4 year degree. I find this both fascinating and quite sound.

I’ve always had to work. My entire graduate school career has been self-supporting. I never undertook technical training but have coasted on an accident of history; my dad built our first computer in the basement when I was 5. I grew up with computers ahead of the curve of the Information Age and, as a result, have always been able to get decent computer work. Thus, I’ve had the skills.

I’ve also had the willingness to work even if it meant outside my training and below my skill set. In some of our rough patches when my day-to-day job wasn’t making ends meet I’ve done everything from tutoring Latin to working as a night-cashier in a grocery store. No job is “below me” if it’s going to keep food on our table and a roof over our heads.

At a meet-up over the weekened with some of our GTS-educated clergy friends, one had just returned from graduation in New York. She informed us that only half of the graduating students had jobs.


Will news like this become the new “normal” in our ever-emerging post-Constantinian state? How about if the economy stays the way it is—or gets worse? (btw, how’s the price of oil and gasoline been trending recently? yeah…) Will bivocational clergy like our colleague Fr. Bob become more common and more necessary especially as tanked/depressed stocks take their effect upon endowments?

It’s easy to say that this indicates that Commissions on Ministry are simply sending too many people to seminary. But that doesn’t quite work either. Seminaries need the influx of a certain critical mass who pays a certain rate of tuition or they go all Seabury-Western on us.

When that happens, we get deeper into a trend already on the rise:  less than half of Episcopal seminarians are attending Episcopal institutions. What does this mean for the maintenance of an “Anglican ethos” or “Episcopal formation”?

As an institution, the Episcopal Church needs to do some hard thinking about education for ministry. What is looks like now; what it will look like a decade from now. This is too important, though, to leave up to a nebulous “them.” We need to be thinking about it and talking about it. I do think we will eventually move to more local options (initial thoughts, more thoughts). And that simply underscores for me the need that we have for good, clear, effective catechesis on the local level. Formation can’t start in seminary; it must start in the parishes first.

Learning to Love the OT in a Marcionite Church

The commenter Walmart Episcopalian has made a great comment down below that shouldn’t get lost. Here it is:

I know the discussion has moved on to the Bishop-elect of Northern Michigan, but I wanted to continue our discussion about the Liturgy of the Word.

I spoke with my Rector about the Liturgy of the Word, following our discussion here. His experience as a lay person and then as a priest tells him that most people are bored by the O.T. and Epistle and perk up during the Gospel because they have a greater sense of connection to it.

I was wondering if the Liturgy of the Word has lost its punch/relevance in a literate, information-saturated society where story-telling is not an exciting break in routine but something against which we learn to defend ourselves. I even wondered, to my shock and surprise, if returning to the proclamation of the Old Testament in the Liturgy was a good thing.

As the first reading, often the most difficult linguistically and most distant culturally, perhaps it causes shut-down among the people and by the time for the Epistle they’ve already glazed over and turned inward.

Also, the majority of Episcopalians I’ve met are crypto-marcionites, or maybe just marcionites. In Adult Ed. I constantly hear about how the God of Love would never countenance the killing of the Hivites, Jebusites, Perrizites, Egyptians, Amalekites et. al. and they simply don’t believe God had anything to do with it. They don’t believe the God of the Holiness Code is the God of Jesus.

They generally like the psalms, however, because most of the psalms address experiences in ways that are comprehensible to them. Except for the ones where the Psalmist curses his enemies or demands death, those make them uncomfortable.

Perhaps adding the OT was a bad idea for our marcionite church. Maybe the Hebrew Scriptures can only come back when the people again believe that the God of Hebrew Scriptures is the God of Jesus.

On the other hand, maybe we need to keep the OT so that we combat the marcionite tendency through proclamation if not in fact. (I would suspect the Bishop-elect of Northern Michigan would not be a big fan of the God of the Old Testament, the God who struck down Uzzah is not a God who trifles with his ‘otherness’ from humanity)

But there’s my current thought, boredom and Marcionism have gutted the liturgy of the Word. I don’t know how this could be addressed in practice. Any thoughts?

Indeed, I think this is of a piece with the issues surrounding the bishop-elect on Northern Michigan. Our people simple don’t know the Scriptures as well as they ought. This is especially true for the Old Testament.

Part of the issue is scope. The New Testament was written in and is concerned with events that happened within a fifty year span and many of the writings—especially the epistles—are focused enough an theological issues that they can be read without a whole lot of appeal to historical context. (Although I’d would never recommend divorcing them from said context.)

The OT is completely different. The events of which it speaks spans over a thousand years and involves a lot of odd places and things done by people with strange names.

I’ve recently come to some conclusions about how biblical teaching should be done in our parishes. I’m still working out how these will look in practice, but here’s the core of my thinking.

Proposal for Teaching the OT to Anglicans

Because of the issue of scope, clergy and congregations need a set of master narratives within which they can locate any particular OT text. These master narratives are:

1. Historical (I.e., an easily understandable grand sweep of Ancient Near Eastern history and Israel/Judah’s place in it.)

2. Geographical (Where the heck is Edom anyway? Or Babylon, Assyria, Carmel, Samaria (which Samaria!), etc.? We need a basic sense of what’s where.)

3. Literary (I.e., what are the major literary divisions on the OT [TaNaK is a good start…], what are the major genres, and what can we expect from these genres?)

4. Theological (I.e., what are the top 5 major themes running through-out the books that help us locate any particular text we read?)

Yes, these are a bit reductionistic—but any big picture view is. As fond as I am of adding nuance, people need a sense of the whole befgore nuance makes any sense.

The way into the whole of the OT is through the Psalms. It’s been observed by ancients and moderns alike that the Psalter is a microcosm of the OT as a whole. One the above four master narratives are in place, select psalms can be used to help familiarize people with how these things look on the ground. You start with the psalms, then move to the other books.

Does that make sense as a start?