Sunday morning stuff

There aren't enough hours in the weekend--in my life for that matter. I can't really complain about this weekend in particular, since I did spend a good part of yesterday playing. Now it's Sunday morning about 9AM. I've had a cup of coffee, puttered around the house a bit, and now I'm sitting on the back porch with no real desire to leave this spot for a few hours if that were actually possible. I've got to get up soon, make myself look semi-presentable, and run off to church.

I feel a little guilty when I don't do that with a gleeful spring in my step. Church--faith for that matter--have never been simple things for me, at least not as an adult. For the last year, as I've considered the possibility of vocational ministry (that's a churchy way of saying becoming a priest--Episcopal priest that is), Sunday morning has become a much more complicated milestone in the cycle of the week.

I should probably digress here for a minute and explain that in the Episcopal church one does not individually choose to become a priest. It's a much larger and longer community process. It generally begins by discussing your sense of calling with your parish priest. That's the first gate through which you have to pass. You don't go any further in the "process" without your priest's endorsement, except possibly to another parish in search of a different priest. The next step is often to begin meeting with a spiritual director, if you're not doing so already. This is an experienced and/or trained person (lay or ordained) with whom you can talk, listen, and reflect about your spiritual journey. I am blessed to have a great director (that's such an understatement).

That's where I've been for the last year and a half: meeting with my director and my priest, reading, thinking, writing. Part of the reason for taking so much time is that the next step in the process--formal discernment--was shutdown in the Diocese of Washington for retooling. Discernment processes vary from one diocese to another, but from what I know they all involve the aspirant (person who thinks they are called to ordained ministry) discerning their call with a group of people. There are also essays to write, a psych evaluation, many many forms to fill out, ultimately leading to a meeting with your bishop who, like your parish priest, is charged with the task of saying yes or no. It's not an election or decision by committee (although there are recommendations). The final decision comes down to two people: the bishop and the aspirant. So, all of this formal discernment takes about a year and ultimately could result in the aspirant becoming a postulant, which means that you can now apply to an Episcopal seminary, spend 3 years in school and fieldwork, endure incredible scrutiny, sit for the General Ordination Exams, and ultimately end up back with your bishop saying yes or no. At some point along the way (I think senior year) the postulant has become a candidate for holy orders. Next comes ordination as a deacon, about 6 months of deaconal service in a parish, then ordination to the priesthood.

So, guess what I did? The diocesan discernment process began again with a weekend retreat last month. I didn't go. The plan is for these retreats to happen quarterly rather than annually, but this one was the first and last chance to enter the 1-year cycle in 2007 in time to complete it in summer 2008 and begin seminary in fall 2008. I just extended my own journey by another 12 months! Why?!? I don't have a nice neat answer for that. I don't doubt my faith and I don't doubt that I am experiencing a time of new calling in my life (see what spiritual direction does to your vocabulary). What I'm doubting, or perhaps stumbling over, is whether ordained ministry is the way I should respond to this call. If you accept that we are all called to some form of ministry to the world and our fellow creatures, then is this the right form of ministry for me?

And, in 1000 words or less, that's why Sunday morning is complicated for me. It's 950. Time to get ready for church.