by Karen Boyd
All of us can be proud and very excited as the Diocese of NW Texas ordains two of our very own. Ashley Colley and Susan Pigott have graduated from the Seminary of the Southwest. The church can be grateful that these two, and their families, made the commitment required to attend a residential program in order to serve the people of God in an intentional and particular way.
According to the Church Pension Group Office of Research, as there has been a decline in church attendance, there has been an associated decline in people attending Episcopal Seminaries. However, the age at ordination has risen from late 20’s in 1950’s to over 45 in 2010. This also means the length a priest serves is shorter.
Many small churches still serve a dedicated congregation, but that small congregation often cannot afford a seminary trained priest. One solution that is emerging is the Iona Collaborative, a projected directed by the Seminary of the Southwest. The Iona Collaborative is responsible for educating bi-vocational priests and deacons in 32 diocese and 7 of 9 provinces in the Episcopal church including here in the Diocese of Northwest Texas. Our School of Ordained Ministry has so far graduated 18 priests and deacons now serving throughout the diocese, some as vicars of smaller churches.
In 2019, The Iona Collaborative was the recipient of a grant funded by the Lilly Endowment to offer continuing education for graduates of these schools. I was pleased to be a participant for the last three years. Not only did I benefit directly taking classes in pastoral care and spirituality. I also benefitted from monthly zoom conferences with my assigned deacon mentor, to former Archdeacon of the Diocese of North Carolina. I was able to share concerns and gain helpful insights while gaining a very good friend.
Classes all three years have met via Zoom, with cohorts generally between 6-10 participants. Of great value has also been the friendships I have made with other new deacons and priests throughout The Episcopal Church. I have learned that even though we are one church, one branch of the Jesus Movement, we remain a diverse body. My classmates have crossed the US, from Michigan, to Washington State, and from Florida to Hawaii. I was interested to learn that the Diocese of West Texas does not use vocational, or permanent deacons. All deacons in that diocese are on the path to be ordained as priests. I was also interested to know that after services at Episcopal Churches in Hawaii, they enjoy a full buffet of delicious Hawaiian food. Mostly, I have friends all across the church who have answered God’s call and who love God and God’s people. Last March we had the opportunity to meet in person at Camp Allen near Navasota, Texas. It was an amazing opportunity to meet, collaborate and worship with friends we have only met on Zoom, and to realize just how tall everyone actually was!
My father used to tell me that the only thing that never changes is all things change. I might agree for the most part, but argue that God’s Grace and love never change. We most definitely live in a changing world and a changing church. We need to find ways to adapt to the church as we are today. I am fortunate to able to remain involved, at least through this next year with an organization that feeds me in so many ways.