From Day One…: Duane W.H. Arnold, PhD
Things have changed in theological and ministerial education. At one time, you might assume that the new clergy person who arrived at the door of the church had completed their undergraduate degree, had been resident in a seminary for three years and had then spent six months to a year under the tutelage of an older, experienced pastor or priest. Today, none of those assumptions may be taken for granted. Several factors are involved. In certain free church traditions, ordination is simply conferred on the basis of a “call” to ministry, with no formal education required. In other more mainline traditions, non-residential seminary/theological college training has become an increasingly normative path, especially for those entering ministry as a “second career”. Additionally, with clergy in short supply for many groups and denominations, the rush to provide a pastoral presence (often bi-vocational) in such churches often means that the priest or pastor who is assigned or invited may not have had the tutelage under an experienced clergy person that was assumed in former days.
This is especially true with regard to emerging denominations such as the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) or local mega-churches dividing into varied campuses. In each case, a church planting model is followed in expectation of the growth of the denomination or church. In many cases, the model is more entrepreneurial than pastoral. The clergy are usually bi-vocational of necessity. Those involved in such church plants often lack a normal residential seminary/theological college background and, equally as often, have not spent time under an experienced mentor in a normal pastoral setting.
In practical terms, this means that the pastor or priest who shows up at the church door may never have been taught how to officiate at a marriage, may never have conducted a funeral, may never have performed a baptism.
An Anglican friend of mine asked if I would draw up a list of what an Anglican priest should know from “day one” on the job. So, I somewhat crowd-sourced a list. Bishops, seminary deans, several priests and one in process for ordination were asked for their input. Following is the list on which there was absolute consensus after a process of adding and discarding. Now, while this is specific to an Anglican priest, the basic list would be similar (with the exception of the use of the Book of Common Prayer) for other “altar based” traditions. A second list is included which is “translated out of Anglican” for those in evangelical or free church traditions…
While it would be expected that any Christian minister would be competent in biblical studies, theology and church history, there is a practical core of skills and knowledge, without which it is almost impossible to function as an Anglican priest. Set below is a short list of that practical core which, in the opinion of a number of experienced bishops, priests and educators constitutes a bare minimum in terms of knowledge and abilities.
Seven Things Every Anglican Priest Should Know From Day One
1. The History and Theology of the Prayer Book
2. The rhythms and cycles of the Christian Year as expressed in the calendar and lectionary of the Prayer Book.
3. The ability to plan, prepare for, officiate, and evaluate all the liturgies found in the Prayer Book, specifically:
A. The ability to Celebrate the Holy Eucharist in accord with the form and rubrics of the Prayer Book
B. The ability to Celebrate Holy Matrimony in accord with the form and rubrics of the Prayer Book
C. The ability to Celebrate and Perform Holy Baptism in accord with the form and rubrics of the Prayer Book
D. The ability to conduct a funeral and burial of the dead in accord with the form and rubrics of the Prayer Book.
E. The ability to hear confessions and administer absolution in Christ’s name according to the form and rubrics in the Prayer Book.
4. The ability to minister to shut-ins, the sick and the dying.
5. The ability to compose and deliver a 10-15 minute homily
6. The knowledge of, and discipline in, saying the Daily Office, Morning and Evening
7. The self-understanding to know the need of frequent resort to a godly counsellor for confession and spiritual direction.
Seven Things Every Pastor Should Know From Day One
1. The history and theology of your own tradition.
2. The marking of Christian holidays, as opposed to the secular calendar.
3. The ability to plan, prepare for, officiate, and evaluate those public and private services you will be called upon to perform, specifically:
A. The celebration of Holy Communion in accord with your church’s tradition
B. The ability to preside at marriages
C. The ability to perform baptisms in accord with your church’s tradition
D. The ability to conduct a funeral
E. The ability to counsel, recognizing the limitations of pastoral counseling
4. The ability to minister to shut-ins, the sick and the dying
5. The ability to compose and deliver a sermon
6. A disciplined and structured daily prayer life
7. The self-understanding to know the need of frequent resort to a godly counsellor for advice and spiritual direction.