This Saturday, I will be teaching my first course at the new Diocesan School for
Ministry at the Episcopal Church Center in Ocean Beach. I am very excited about
it for a number of reasons. On the diocesan level, we’ve been dreaming about
having a center and a school. At present, the diocesan office is located in the
basement of the cathedral. It’s not easy to get to or to park at and the meeting
spaces are few and small; it’s like being in the basement converted to a rec
room of your parents' house. Like the set of the comedy sketch turned movie,
“Wayne’s World,” a couple of worn out couches, a pinball machine, and rock
posters of Def Leopard and Bon Jovi might actually help us liven up the basement
office look. Nevertheless, the Diocese is converting part of the church of the
Holy Spirit, Ocean Beach, into a diocesan office. We are also converting the
parish hall and church office into the Episcopal Center. There are good meeting
spaces, ample parking, and location, location, location, at the outreach
center of the diocese. But one part of the dream was still missing, the school.
The mission of our diocese is to support congregational life and vitality, to
empower Episcopalians to live into and spread the Good News of Christ, to reach
out to people who are in need, and to educate. In our national church, seminary
education is undergoing a shift. The age old model of raising someone up for
holy orders and sending that person to a 3-year institutional graduate school
for education and spiritual formation is becoming more difficult and expensive
every year. At the same time, there is a rapidly increasing need for deacons and
priests, some of whom will choose to remain in their occupations and serve the
Church on a part time basis. The School for Ministry is intended to educate and
spiritually form Episcopalians who, for a variety of reasons, cannot travel the
traditional path to ordination. In other words, the diocese is going to train
people locally to serve God and live into their vocation of holy orders.
This is an electrifying, 21st century, way to live into God’s mission in the world. But that’s not the whole reason why I am so excited to teach on Saturday.
Starting about ten years ago, I embarked on a journey to discover what God is calling me to do with my life. It’s been an interesting decade to say the least and the journey is not over; I have not fully lived into what God is calling me to be. This does not mean I am unhappy or dissatisfied, only challenged by the Holy Spirit to learn, grow, and do more for God’s mission. Being called to Saint John’s where I serve in both a parochial and academic setting has opened my eyes to further exploration of my vocation, which apparently includes teaching. And there is even more.
dad is my hero. He was a biology teacher for 25 years and was quite active in
church life when I was growing up. He too embarked on a journey into what God
was calling him to do with his life. His journey included going to a school for
ministry in the Diocese of Olympia (in western Washington State). Today my Dad
and Mom own a successful Christian bookstore in Seattle. Their mission is not
only selling books but also facilitating spiritual growth in their customers. It
seems I am following in the family tradition of education and helping others
with their spiritual lives. I am excited about this teaching at the School for
Ministry, the manifestation of the Diocese living into its mission, the students
living into their spiritual journeys, and my continuing to explore the mission
God has in store for me. I am also excited about the opportunity to teach
because, even though my dad is in Seattle, I feel like he is with me when I
teach – whether it is to my sixth graders, at a Saint John’s Bible study, during
a sermon, or teaching a preaching class to soon-to-be deacons and priests. His
birthday is this weekend and even though I can’t be with him, I feel like I am
celebrating with him.
I pray that God will continue to bless Saint John’s in her mission to proclaim and
teach God’s love and lead the Diocese and the School for Ministry to raise up
leaders to serve the Lord. And may God bless each of us in our spiritual journeys.
- Fr. Marshall