Yesterday, I interviewed at the Seminary Choosen on My Behalf. I got a couple of nasty surprises.

I've been concerned about seminary finances from the beginning of this process (2004?), and I've expressed that concern to my rector. I've been told two things repeatedly:
1) Almost no one pays full tuition at this seminary. Worry about living expenses, but don't worry about tuition, most everyone gets very large grants. (This seminary happens to have more money than God, so this didn't seem outside the realm of possibility.)
2) In the first year, the seminary locates scholarships that you're eligible for, in the last two years, you find them on your own. Seemed odd, but what do I know?

The truth is actually:
1) If Mr. M's salary stays the same when we relocate, we will not be eligible for any grant money from the seminary whatsoever, and will need to pay $900/month.
2) Not only does the seminary not locate scholarships for you, but the lateness of my postulancy interview means that I have missed all scholarship deadlines.

So now I'm looking seriously at where to go from here. I'm giving a lot of thought to spiritual direction instead of priesthood. I'm seriously considering withdrawing from the ordination process. I don't know whether or not that will be permanent, but I think it might be what has to happen now. I cannot get through this without genuine support from my rector-- the process isn't set up to function that way. It becomes lonely, overwhelming, and whatever the opposite of affirming is.

Mr. M has been saying for some time now that he can clearly hear my call to ministry, but that he cannot see God in the diocesan process as I am experiencing it.

I've been feeling like I'll be fine if I can just get through each next step, but I'm becoming very concerned about that. God should be glorified in all stages of ministry. That doesn't mean it's easy, but I think it does mean I shouldn't feel like I'm fighting all the time. I don't want to live with a "just get through it" mentality. I want to honor each part of ministry-- receiving, giving, growing, stretching.

I feel like my deep self has been silenced over and over by my rector. Many times I've tried to open up about joy I was finding in ministry, or fears I had of where it was going, only to have my perspective corrected and adjusted. I cannot genuinely serve God this way, and I simply am unable to continue in the process without support.

I'm disappointed when I think about withdrawing from the process towards ordination, but I also think it's the right thing to do. I don't know where we'll go from here, but I need the freedom to serve God, as I understand God, every day, and I don't feel like I have that right now.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.


  1. Oh, Mrs. M. Thoughts and prayers your way -- how frustrating.

  2. I have just skimmed this post really, really fast -- I wanted to see how it had gone so I stopped by, but I really need to be getting ready to go somewhere.

    However, I do want to make a quick and dirty comment: having seen three children through the college process, I have felt toally jerked around by the seminary money process. The hallmarks have been well-intentioned people, undue optimism on the part of people who should know better, and a lack of clarity and transparency. In every one of the, oh, 100 or so colleges that we looked at over the years, I felt that I understood the processes, guidelines, optimism or lack thereof, and differences between financial aid and merit scholarships clearly. Not so with seminary.

    However, don't give up too quickly! A couple of months ago, I had many of the same gut reactions that you do but I have gradually come around to another approach -- financially challenging but then, the whole undertaking is challenging in so many ways.

    I will try to add more or email you later.

  3. Thanks for the encouragement, both of you.

    gannet girl, if it was just about the money I'd be frustrated, but tenacious. (But you're right-- why is seminary money so much weirder than college money?!) I'm really feeling isolated and hung out to dry. When I told my priest I was feeling overwhelmed (a few months back), that I needed more support, the reply I got was that the system was difficult "to teach you discipline and obedience." The structure of our hierarchy/chain of command/whatever means that I can't go around him, but I don't believe I have his honest support, so I can't effectively go with/through him, either.

    I think that for now, I can still minister without being a minister. Who knows about later?!

  4. Oh, Mrs M. I really "hear" you. It seems so clear from who you are (at least what I can gather from the self that comes through your blog) that you absolutely will always minister beautifully whether or not you are a minister. And maybe what you need right now is support in your letting go. BUT I don't want you to give up if it's not meant to be. You've gone so far in a very difficult process. A human-made process and I don't like your rector's definition of the process to teach us "discipline and obedience." yuck. Just because you don't feel God in this process doesn't mean you aren't meant to become a priest. You just don't want to regret giving up, you know? But it does seem clear you need to have an honest conversation with your rector. Maybe he supports you more than you realize. And maybe not. I am keeping you in my prayers that it will be clear for you how to proceed. Bless your heart!

  5. (((Mrs. M)))

    I have several thoughts, but I'm unable to say much of anything in a coherent way right now. You are in my prayers. Remembering your calling.

  6. Oh, hun. No advice, I'm afraid, but you're in my prayers.

  7. OK, I'm back, but I really only have two things to say.

    I know you have a spiritual director -- is it someone completely outside your denomination and its processes? Some people would probably strenuously disagree with that approach, but I think it's worth considering.

    I know nothing about your denominational situation, but you say your rector is always correcting and adjusting your perspective. It seems to me that it would be entirely appropriate for your rector to offer his perspective, but any correcting and adjusting is within your domain. I agree that you need a candid conversation with him and maybe some boundary setting, maybe on both sides.

    And if he genuinely does not support you, then what? Is there no recourse within your system?

  8. Hey, gannet girl,

    Thanks for the revisit.

    I do have a spiritual director outside of the denomination/process, and I'm getting quite a lot of grief for that (though I find it helpful). Rector in particular thinks it's wrong to seek a non-anglican director, so I've been told that I will more or less have a new one assigned to me, though I'll be "allowed" to see two if I want to keep my present director.

    I think it's great to hear clergy perspectives, so my gripe isn't his stories, it's that I'm not feeling respect for mine. As it's been presented to me, my rector is the next step on the chain of command, and everything that goes elsewhere must travel through him. (I.e., I don't communicate directly with the bishop, the head of the commission on ministry, my internship supervisor-- well, I did with her, but the initial contact had to go through him.)

    I have no idea what my recourse is. My rector is very political, makes a point of being in tight with the Powers That Be. That's what makes it feel especially sticky. He's candid about liking the politics, about being aware that you "have to" deal that way.

    I'm going to start with a discussion on Saturday morning, and see where we go.

  9. Many, many hugs from my direction. Ditto prayers and thoughts. I'm sorry to hear how things have been for you -- and I have no advice or wisdom, but my door is always open, so send me an email whenever you need a good set of ears!

  10. Mrs. M, this sounds so awful - so first, hugs and prayers to you.

    As someone in this denomination... um, how shall I put this? This thing you were told, about "the system was difficult to teach you discipline and obedience" is a load of crap. Thats not what the process should be about, and I'm so sorry you're getting that kind of response. But, I would be so sad to see someone with your passion for ministry turn away from ordination because of this lack of helpful support. Honestly though, you can do it without a super supportive rector. Its possible, and happens more often than it should.

    Whatever you discern, I'll be thinking about you and praying for you!

  11. Oh Mrs. M.--I don't visit for a while and come back to hear them jerking you around. I am so so sorry.

    Your rector is horrendous and so is anyone in the denomination who harasses you for having a director outside their power structure. If they were as wise as you they'd be telling you to get someone like that.

    I am so sad that you have gotten to the point of considering withdrawing but so impressed you are willing to do that if needed for your integrity and health and happiness. The mark of a true call in many ways...I have done that too and there is a price to be paid but in the end I got my heart's desire and every step helped get me here--not that that excuses the evil behavior.

    Lots and lots of prayers on the way. And remember, the Holy Spirit, she's a coming soon....To console and empower you and kick their butts!


"So keep fightin' for freedom and justice, beloveds, but don't you forget to have fun doin' it. Lord, let your laughter ring forth. Be outrageous, ridicule the fraidy-cats, rejoice in all the oddities that freedom can produce. And when you get through kickin' ass and celebratin' the sheer joy of a good fight, be sure to tell those who come after how much fun it was."
-Saint Molly Ivins