Plan to meet regularly over a period of months with your parish priest to explore this sense of call to ministry as a priest or deacon. During that time, engage meaningfully in life in your church. Seek a spiritual director by contacting the Rev. Mary Taflinge
r, missioner for pastoral care on the Bishop’s staff. Establish and continue a regular practice of prayer. After a period of months of regular conversation, if your priest agrees that you may have a vocation to life as a priest or a deacon, make an appointment for you and your priest to meet together with Bishop Jennifer. You can make this arrangement by contacting the Bishop’s executive assistant, Janet Brinkworth
The process of discernment is a process which becomes more and more public as it continues. If Bishop Jennifer determines from your conversation that you should move forward in exploring this call to serving as a priest or deacon, she will encourage your priest to establish a congregational discernment group. This is a trained small group of people from your parish who will meet with you over a period of months to support and challenge you in testing the call to ordained ministry.
You will need to make an appointment to meet with the transition minister, Jennifer Phelps
, to orient you to the discernment process. You will have a series of forms and documents to prepare which help to identify your readiness to proceed. You may be asked to visit another congregation for observation of the varying ways the Episcopal Church is made incarnate. Once this part of the process is complete, and your necessary documents have been received and placed on file, Bishop Jennifer may invite you to a discernment weekend. This is a Friday-Saturday overnight retreat in which you will share in a time of prayer, fellowship, and discussion with the Bishop, with members of the Commission on Ministry and Standing Committee, and with others who are discerning their own potential vocation to serve in ordained ministry.
At the end of this weekend, the Bishop or a member of the Commission on Ministry will share Bishop Jennifer’s determination about whether you will be made a postulant. The Bishop’s response, informed by the COM’s recommendation, may be: yes, you are now a postulant and may move forward in formation for ministry; yes, she believes you are called to consider ordained ministry, but there are other matters to be addressed and resolved prior to postulancy; or no, she does not believe you to be called to ordained life, but encourages your further exploration of baptized ministry.
Formation for ordained ministry takes place in different ways. People seeking to become vocational (lifelong) deacons will be equipped for ministry through a combination of course work, internships, cohort learning, and reflection. Those seeking to be ordained as priests will likely attend seminary toward earning a Master of Divinity at an institution approved by the Bishop. Those hoping to transfer their ordination from another Christian tradition need to go through this process, meet with the Bishop, and learn from her what Episcopal preparation will be necessary.
The next step toward more public discernment is when a postulant is made a candidate for holy orders. For those pursuing a call to the priesthood, this determination takes place once a postulant has completed more than half of their seminary formation, received a satisfactory evaluation from their seminary, and has earned one credit of clinical pastoral education. For those exploring a call to the diaconate, this is based on the postulant’s progress and evaluation of readiness by the Bishop with the counsel of the Archdeacon. In both orders, postulants are again invited to a discernment overnight retreat and series of interviews with the Bishop, members of the Commission on Ministry, and members of the Standing Committee. Decisions about naming a postulant a candidate for holy orders are joint determinations: the Commission on Ministry advises the Bishop on their sense of the postulant’s call and readiness to proceed; the Standing Committee ensures that the postulant has met all canonical requirements for this next step.
The Bishop and the Standing Committee must be in agreement for a person to become a candidate for holy orders. Candidates who have completed or neared completion (for those pursuing a call to priesthood) of their formation for ministry may be invited to interview at a discernment weekend with the Bishop, members of the Commission on Ministry, and members of the Standing Committee. This process closely mirrors the previous step by which a person becomes a candidate for holy orders. Again, the decision of the Bishop, with the counsel of the Commission on Ministry, must be in accord with the decision of the Standing Committee. Those interviewing for candidacy and ordination will know the decision of the Bishop and Standing Committee before the end of the second day of the