The good news is that Fr Richard Wall, my assistant priest, has been elected Rector of St Andrew’s Church in State College, PA. This is a very flourishing parish with many connexions with Penn State University; so Fr Wall’s academic qualifications will be as important there as his pastoral skills.
The sad side of this is, of course, that we will miss him very much at St Clement’s, where he has been very much appreciated. However, it is right for curates to become rectors, so he will go with the blessing of the whole congregation.
Now I am faced with finding a new curate. This is more easily said than done, St Clement’s being the kind of church it is. The qualifications for being a priest on the staff here are slightly different than for most Episcopal parishes. The curate must be single and will share the Clergy House with me (though he will have a separate two-bedroom apartment). Apart from his day off, he will celebrate or attend Mass and Evensong every day, and on Sundays share the two Masses and Vespers, all of these being conducted in the traditional English Missal rites.
One of Fr Wall’s strengths has been the many classes he has conducted on various historical, liturgical or ethical themes, and I would hope a new curate will develop this. I would also like him to carry on and expand the work of the Helping Others Group, which has been well supported, especially by the younger members of St Clement’s, and has undertaken the collecting of food and clothing for the poor, helped with making and serving dinner at a winter shelter for homeless men, made up Christmas parcels for elderly shut-in people (through Episcopal Community Services) and is poised to team up with a larger group from St Mark’s Church who are reopening the Church of St James the Less and its work with the local school and community.
The third emphasis I would put to a new curate is to see what can be done for students from the three great universities in this city. It is often said that young people want way-out “relevant” worship, but I am not so sure about that. If you count the handful who take part in the minimalist (to be kind!) worship at our Cathedral, which is situated in the middle of the University of Pennsylvania campus, and compare that with those who attend St Clement’s and St Mark’s, you would be surprised how many enjoy traditional worship (and I presume as many go to Holy Trinity, St Peter’s, Christ Church etc for the same reason). So I’d like the curate to make an effort to publicize St Clement’s to this group too.
I hear you say: “He wants the Archangel Gabriel!” but no, that would scare the horses! I’ll settle for a faithful Catholic priest who says his prayers, loves God, and wants to bring others to him through our Lord Jesus Christ. If any of you reading this know of (or are) such a person, get in touch.
I know it doesn’t sound like an easy job to fill, but I am sure there must be quite a few young priests who would like a few years in this kind of mixed ministry.