The demands of the modern church on its clergy are as complex and multifaceted as at any time in history. One of the ongoing issues facing the Episcopal Church is the process by which it equips, with God’s help, its clergy to navigate this complexity. For one to live a long, productive and joyful life in the ministry requires a profound sense of personal identity grounded in God’s grace. It also requires very intentional decision-making regarding the habits of a healthy life. This includes patterns of prayer, work and rest as well as fostering healthy and life giving relationships. It also necessitates particular attention to physical and mental health. More recently it has become clear that the experiences a recently ordained person has early on in ministry are seminal in the development of these healthy patterns.
The Episcopal Diocese of Texas has a program designed to address these issues at the beginning of ordained ministry. First, a newly ordained person is placed in a two-year curacy in a parish or institutional ministry setting where he or she can work under the careful guidance of an experienced person in Holy Orders. Secondly, The Episcopal Diocese of Texas requires those recently ordained to participate in a series of retreats with other recent ordinands and experienced clergy facilitators in a Diocesan Internship Program, or “Curate Camp”.
The scope of this Doctorate of Ministry project is to describe the development and content of Curate Camp, test its assumptions, and assess its impact on participants.
The project begins with the articulation of a Vision for Ministry by the author. This vision provides both the rationale for the author’s interest and commitment to the project, as well as the perspective from which the Diocesan Internship is evaluated by the project.
Following the articulation of a vision for ministry, there is as description of the theological and practical rationale for a program like the Diocesan Internship Program. This includes a summary of some of the recent research material that is available regarding the importance of the first five years of ministry.
Second, there is a presentation of the history of the Diocese of Texas internship program from its inception. This includes interviews with the bishops, diocesan staff and facilitators who created the program to develop a clear understanding of its goals and how those goals were implemented into programmatic components. There are also interviews with the various clergy facilitators who led the program since its inception and descriptions of changes they made, and presentation of the rationale for those changes. Particular attention is paid to the changes made after the author became a facilitator of the program.
Third, a review all of the feedback gathered from the participants at the end of each series of retreats since the program’s inception is presented.
Fourth, the results of a qualitative longitudinal evaluation survey, designed and implemented under the direction of a professional statistician are presented.
Fifth, this project presents a description of the Second Three Years Program at the Virginia Theological Seminary. This program is designed to offer peer support, continued education, mentoring and self-development for the most recently ordained graduates of VTS and it is similar to the work we are doing in the Diocese of Texas. This allows the Diocese to Texas to compare its work to another program with similar goals, and informs adaptations the author recommends for the future.
Finally the results of this history, research and comparison are complied to make specific recommendations for the Diocese of Texas for changes in the program for the future.