The Rev. J. Donald Waring ’89Rector, Grace Church, New York
One of the sad realities of the current economic climate is the diminishing number of Episcopal churches that can afford a curate – the traditional title of a new priest whose first call is to work in a parish under the supervision of a seasoned rector. It is not that the opportunities for ministry have dried up, but the resources to fund these positions have.
Grace Church Broadway has a long history of distinguished rectors, including Henry Codman Potter (1868-1883), who became Bishop of New York; William Reed Huntington (1883-1909), who authored the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral; and Walter Russell Bowie (1923-1939), who was a Biblical scholar, prolific author, and later a seminary professor.
The truth is, Grace Church has never relied on the rector alone, but rather on a team of clergy who have brought a variety of gifts to the work of the parish. Throughout the years, many of the assistant clergy were newly ordained. Benjamin Washburn, Samuel Shoemaker, and Theodore Parker Ferris were among those who began their ministries here under supervision, in a setting that allowed them to experiment, receive feedback, and eventually move on to lead major institutions of The Episcopal Church. Indeed, the wider church was blessed for decades because these young priests had a good beginning.
Today, many once-robust churches are struggling to pay the salary of a rector, to say nothing of a curate. At Grace Church we have two full-time priests on staff, but we have no room in the budget for a curate. Thus, our historic role of helping new clergy make a good start is simply on hold. Or is it?
I see The Wisdom Year as a way to meet the needs of churches like Grace, while fulfilling our role to provide real-world experience to our future clergy. Here is a creative, economically viable way to meet a number of pressing leadership needs that the church is facing. I look forward to learning more, and to the possibility of participating ourselves.