The Episcopal tradition calls every baptized person into ministry, responding to God’s love by living out Christ’s ministry of reconciliation. Our Prayer Book describes four orders of ministry — lay people, deacons, priests, and bishops. We believe those four orders of ministry work together to help all the followers of the way of Jesus join in God’s mission in their contexts. If you’re seeking clarity about where you fit in those four orders, check out information about discernment here.
The ordination of a deacon or priest is the culmination of years of formation: learning that develops the particular Spirit-given gifts that call them to those roles, and personal growth through deep relationships and practice of the competencies required for ministry.
Formation means more than acquiring information by taking classes and reading books; it’s about the work of the Holy Spirit integrating the knowledge and skills for ministry with your heart and soul so that your ministry comes from your deepest self, grounded in relationships with God and others. To that end, the ECMN School for Formation offers a series of courses in preparation for the diaconate and the priesthood. Those listening for a call to Holy Orders take at least two courses in the School for Formation to help them engage their discernment and understand how they will navigate formation. Then, it typically takes at least two years to complete coursework for the diaconate (Year A and Year B courses), and three for the priesthood (Year A, Year B, and Year C courses). See the courses in the handbook linked above. More on-the-ground ministry practice with supervision takes place through Clinical Pastoral Education and internships in other faith communities – our contextual education handbook is also available via the link above.
Often people who already have previous graduate work in theology discern for ordained roles, or postulants decide to enroll in local non-Episcopal seminaries. In those cases, an individual might be exempted from some courses in the School for Formation. All those in formation for ordained roles take some of the courses in the School for Formation and participate in cohort and the ordination process as described below.
Alongside taking courses, after being admitted to postulancy, those in formation for Holy Orders meet with others in their formation cohort one Friday night a month. These cohort gatherings offer the opportunity to engage the skills of being a deacon or priest, and to build relationships with others on this journey that can last well beyond ordination – a key practice for healthy clergy.
The cohort gathers in person for two retreats each year – one in September, and one in May. Monthly cohort gatherings take place online via videoconference, with regular worship opportunities as well.
The Ordination Process
Formation is about becoming more and more the person God calls you to be, while responding more and more to what skills the Church needs in its leaders in order to join in God’s mission. That means that formation takes place in relationships, especially with your Bishop, Missioner for Formation, others in formation (your cohort), members of your internship site, instructors, mentors, and those charged by the Church with overseeing the ordination process (members of the Commission on Ministry and Standing Committee). The canonical process for ordination used by the Episcopal Church in Minnesota is described in this document, and takes place in conjunction with courses and cohort in the School for Formation.
In the first year cohort, participants take a deep dive into key aspects of the identity of the Episcopal Church in Minnesota, as well as the history and development of the diaconate.
In the second year cohort, participants reflect theologically on each other’s experiences in internships. Focusing on leadership and conflict styles, participants practice holding space for their own growth, questions, and personal integration of the role of deacon. The Rev. Maureen Otwell and the Rev. Georgia Steele serve as mentors for this cohort.
In the Year A priesthood cohort, participants build a practice of reading Scripture together, sharing their spiritual journeys, and engaging key elements of the identity of the Episcopal Church in Minnesota. The Rev. Anna Doherty serves as mentor for this cohort.
In the Year B priesthod cohort, participants reflect theologically on each other’s experiences in internships. Focusing on leadership and conflict styles, participants practice holding space for their own growth, questions, and personal integration of the role of priest. The Rev. Paul Nancarrow serves as mentor for this group.
In the transitional diaconate cohort, The Rev. Joanie Delamater holds space for the ongoing integration of priestly identity as experienced in internships, CPE, and beyond.