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.