A little over a year ago, I embarked on the journey to becoming a priest in the Episcopal Church. I started working with a spiritual director, wrote a spiritual autobiography, met with the parish and diocesan leaders, and started meeting with a discernment committee to explore my spirituality, my faith, the shape of my ministry, and my suitability as a future priest in the Church. The “process” had its high points, and its low points, and I have tried to chronicle this here on my blog. Since I had not posted anything in more than two months, and friends on social media and elsewhere were asking how the “process” was going, I thought it was time to write this post.
After much prayerful consideration, deep conversation, reflection and introspection, I have decided to drop out of “the process” and discontinue my application for the ordained priesthood in the Episcopal Church. I did not come to this decision lightly, but it had become clear in working with both my spiritual director and the discernment committee that I am called to something other than the ordained ministry. As an ordained minister, I would need to be a spiritual leader and a representative of the Church. Priests are called not to be advocates, but to be ministers, serving the entirety of the Church. The more I worked through discernment, however, the more I felt called to a strong sense of advocacy, especially for marginalized communities both in society and in the Church.
As I was driving to work earlier this summer, I had an epiphany. It seemed so simple and right in front of me, but so elusive at the same time. I finally came to the realization that my true calling is to be an advocate and activist for marginalized communities, including the newly immigrated, those in minority racial and ethnic communities, and the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender communities. The shape of this advocacy was not as a priest, but as a lay person and as a librarian. I know that it may sound strange to many of my “non library” friends to think of librarians as advocates, but librarians and libraries have always had a strong sense of advocacy for the communities that they serve and the “common good” of society.
Being a librarian offers me the support, both financial and professionally, to work for change in society for marginalized communities. As a layperson, I can advocate for greater inclusion in the Church for the LGBT community, or persons or color, or Spanish-speaking populations much more effectively than if I were an ordained priest. A priest’s obligation is to the Church, after his or her obligation to God, but a lay person has no such obligation to the Church. It’s easier to be an agent for change and an advocate for the marginalized, often pushing the Church into areas of discomfort and change, when you are not an employee of the Church with obligations to the Church.
The silver lining behind the discernment process and the events of the last year is this: I truly have clarity and a sense of purpose moving forward in both my professional and personal life, for the first time in many years. Interest in my vocation as a librarian has been renewed and re-energized and I look forward to taking on new roles as a layperson in the Church. I needed to explore my call to the priesthood and am glad that I did so because it led me back to my true vocation: as an activist librarian working in the world for social change and the common good.
I’d welcome everyone to check out my library, information science, and technology blog, A Blog on LIST, for updates and information on my journey moving forward. The posts on this blog are likely to become more sporadic, but I do plan on keeping it up and available, if only for my reflection and retrospection of my journey the last 18 months.