The Priesthood in the Diocese of New Jersey:
Guidelines for Rectors and Vicars
Title III, Canon 2 Of Candidates for Holy Orders
(a) Persons desiring to be admitted as Candidates for Holy Orders are, in the first instance, to consult their immediate Pastors, or, if they have none, some Presbyters to whom they are personally known, setting before them the grounds of their desire for admission to the Ministry, together with such circumstances as may bear on their qualifications, or tend to affect their course of preparation.
(b)(1) If, as the result of a careful inquiry into the physical intellectual, moral, emotional, and spiritual qualifications of the aspirants, they are counseled by their Presbyter to persevere in their intentions, they shall make their desire known personally, if possible, or in writing, to the Bishop in whose jurisdiction they have been canonically resident, for the three months preceding.
The Rector/Vicar of a parishioner seeking Holy Orders is pastor, priest, and discerner with his/her parishioner in the process toward ordination. As discerner, the Rector/Vicar along with the person testing vocation is listening for God’s call toward ordained ministry for that parishioner. As priest, the Rector/Vicar remains the priest for this individual in offering prayer, teaching, sacrament and experience of the priestly vocation and call with the aspirant. As pastor, the Rector/Vicar cares for this discerning individual and his/her family during the exciting, challenging, and stressful days ahead.
Each priest has a particular way of working and relating to parishioners that is unique. What is recommended in these guidelines in no way assumes that everyone will work with an aspirant parishioner in the same way. However, there are important tasks to be addressed for both the Rector/Vicar and the aspirant. They are as follows:
Task I To listen to the aspirant’s spiritual journey and call toward ordained ministry.
Task II To go over the Book of Common Prayer’s description of the four orders of ministry (pages 855-856) and the ordination liturgy beginning on page 525-536.
Task III To go over the diocesan process toward ordained ministry with the aspirant. How does the aspirant feel about the process? Losses? Changes? Cost?
*NOTE: Members of the Episcopal Church who are entering the process of discernment for priestly ministry are strongly advised not to pursue a course of seminary study prior to meeting with Bishop Stokes and the Committee on Priesthood. Since priestly formation takes place primarily within the seminary context, such studies are to be undertaken only under the guidance of Bishop Stokes and the Committee on Priesthood.
Task IV To reflect on where the aspirant’s ministry is in the world and the church today. Does the aspirant already live out priestly ministry (i.e., teaching, visiting sick and shut-ins, youth group work, L.E.M., eucharistic minister, pastoral care team, liturgical participation, vestry, liturgy team, evangelism, etc.)? Identify strengths, gifts, and self-awareness regarding weaknesses, growing edges.
Task V To reflect on this aspirant as someone you would actively recruit for ordained ministry. If yes, why? If no, why not? Even if you would not have actively recruited this person for ordained ministry, are you now able to see how this person might benefit the church as a priest? Could you support this person in the process toward ordination? Why are you so moved?
Task VI To go over questions of Form 2B ‘Background Information Report to be Completed by Rector/Vicar.’ Are there areas that you need to further explore with your aspirant so you might more fully answer these questions?
Task VII To discern prayerfully the call, ministry, priestly qualities (see ‘Discerning Ministry Booklet’ [pages 5-6] and Bishop’s letter), and potential for priesthood with the parishioner discerning a call to ordination.
Task VIII To appoint a Parish Committee on Ministry, if the Rector/Vicar discerns a call, to arrange for meetings with the aspirant to begin (please see Parish Committees on Ministry).
Task IX To arrange for a spiritual director acceptable to the aspirant. (Aspirant should meet regularly with the director throughout the discernment process.)
Task X To continue to meet with the aspirant as pastor/priest/discerner. It also might be helpful to have the aspirant become involved in new areas of ministry as well (i.e., adult education, lay eucharistic ministry, eucharistic minister, pastoral care, teaching, vestry meetings, etc.).
Task XI To assist the aspirant in following the next steps of his/her discernment in the local congregation and in the diocese.
If the Parish Committee on Ministry (PCOM) discerns a call to ordained ministry, forms will need to be filled out and sent to the Canon for Ministry Development, Diocesan House, 808 West State St., Trenton, New Jersey 08618.
If the Parish Committee on Ministry (PCOM) does not discern a call to ordained ministry the Rector/Vicar and chair of the Parish Committee on Ministry (PCOM) will need to meet with the aspirant to talk about what has been discerned and what next steps lie ahead for future ministry in the Body of Christ.
The above tasks are listed to assist the Rector/Vicar in the process toward ordination. If there is any need for clarification or further assistance regarding the process, please contact one of the co-chairs of the Committee on Priesthood.
God bless you as you actively recruit parishioners for ordained ministry, and as you, with your Parish Committee on Ministry (PCOM) discern God’s call for an individual parishioner and the church at large.