Wednesday, February 22, 2017


On most Tuesday mornings, I meet with a group of men (all men, unfortunately!) who are, all but one, Episcopal priests (the lone layperson gives us the barest shred of credibility).

Often the conversation is rather mundane or silly or uninteresting to all but one of us. But that's the kind of group we are--we tolerate each others' hobby horses and obsessions. We've been meeting on Tuesday mornings for longer than I've been a part of it and I've been a part of it for 26 years or so. More of the people who've been part of the group are dead than are alive. (Or, since I'm reading an Alexander McCall Smith novel about the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency in Botswana--all of which I have read and recommend--I should say, 'more of us are late than living. I love those novels but Bern can't get 3 pages into them.)

Someday I should post about the 'late' members of the Tuesday morning clericus (which it isn't anymore since a lay folk is part of it). They were amazing men. Again, regrettably, all men. I sat at their knees for decades, taking in wisdom that became my own. I loved them all. Greatly.

Tuesday we had a conversation that started with my whole 'Christian without Creed' rant and ended up, I think, with two of my friends questioning my obedience to my ordination vows. I'm not sure that's what it was, but it was leaning in that direction.

They may be right--I'll give them that--because I really don't consciously think about 'being obedient' to my ordination vows. Not really. I'm vaguely aware I said some things--when was it?--1975, I think (if you read this blog much you know I'm, like Billy Pilgrim, 'unstuck in time') linear time, like so much else, confounds me. Like this, I helped someone arrange a celebration of their 40th anniversary of their ordination when I was a year past them and didn't even once think about it!!!

I looked at the ordination service in the Book of Common Prayer and could justify, in an email to those friends, that I kinda, sorta, in a way kept the vows I made. A strong if not convincing case I made.

But what that Tuesday morning conversation caused me to do is ponder my priesthood in a way I never have.

They made me a priest (a Standing Committee, a Bishop, God--I hope) and since then I've just assumed that's what I am. A priest. Like that. A priest.

The first parish I served was St. James in Charleston, WV. It was an historically Black parish that integrated backwards over the time I was there. The Black members knew any white person who came to St. James must be safe. Maybe 10% of the members--some from mixed marriages, others because it's where they wanted to be--were white when I left. Which made it easier, I assume, when they merged with St. Luke's (a 'white' parish) 6 or 10 years after I left. I know, I know...linear time....

I was a white guy serving and being priest to Black folk--a big reversal of my segregated experience as a child growing up.

My bishop in West Virginia called me 'the young Turk'. He was amused at my outlandish, ultra-liberal, counter-cultural way of being a priest. I've always felt on the outside of the 'Episcopal Ethos' because I'm the son of a coal miner and first grade teacher who is associated with the movers and shakers of our culture. Do you realize how many 'Anglicans/Episcopalians' have been President? Google it.

But what I've pondered in the last 48 hours is how much more I feel like a "Priest" than I feel like a member of an institution.

I probably have violated left and right my ordination vows. I recognize that for the first time. But I don't think I've violated my Methodist baptism or my optimistic view that the Episcopal Church is the last, best refuge for Christians who are left-wing.

I honor what my friends told me Tuesday. And I'm shakier than I've ever been about calling myself 'an Episcopal priest'.

But I have no compunction about saying, loud and full of truth: I AM A PRIEST OF GOD.

Institutions come and go. Some interest me, like the Episcopal Church and the Democratic Party, and others don't.

God, I'm pretty sure, endures.

And I'm his/her priest in the end.

Maybe someday I'll renounce my ordination vows if it turns out I have so ignored them. But I won't renounce my priesthood for God. That's way past institutions and vows.....

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some ponderings by an aging white man who is an Episcopal priest in Connecticut. Now retired but still working and still wondering what it all means...all of it.