Journeys of Faith

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You may be new to my blog or you may even have been with me since the last blog!  Whatever the case, some of you may be wondering how on earth a former Roman Catholic priest became an Episcopal priest … who has just been Called to serve as Rector at a beautiful parish in Alexandria, Virginia.

The Love of Service

After four years of seminary study and formation, I was ordained a priest in the Roman Catholic Church on May 19, 1990. For as much as I loved being of service to the parishioners I was assigned to serve, almost from the beginning, and even while studying in the seminary, I knew I had significant differences with some of the theology of the RC Church. This said, the RC Church was really all I knew, and as mentioned, I loved serving the people in my parish, so I focused more on the people than on my differences with the teaching authority of the Church. Rome was a place far, far away and the people pastorally in my care were right in front of me. These good folks wanted their children baptized and formed in Christian education, wanted to be married and receive absolution through the Sacrament of Penance. Thankfully, rather than focus on the differences, I happily found myself daily absorbed in the life of our parish community. Whenever a person would ask me how I could justify, for example, the RC Church position on the ordination of women as priests – I would respond with what I learned in the seminary about the ordination of men [only], and then ask the inquiring person to pray with me for a time when women would be given the God-given opportunity to serve as a priest if they felt so Called by God. Then I’d move on to the next appointment or sick call or emergency at hand. Every day, for 21 years, my life was directed by a system of triage 24/7 – making decisions as to who I could serve next based on whatever crisis had developed in the last 15 minutes. I loved it. I was born to serve and the RC Church gave me ample opportunity to do so.

A Leap of Faith

Through the years my tolerance for some specific teachings of the RC Church became more of a conflict for my conscience. Rather than list those now, please ask me anytime what my differences were and I would be happy to have that conversation with you.

Over time I knew, as a matter of conscience, I could not stay where I should not be. When a person’s pain, even intellectual, spiritual, or psychological reaches an unacceptable level, that person will do what was before unthinkable – and that is make a change which will alter the trajectory of their life. I was at that point. It took a long time, but I was finally there. First I approached my Mom, then my family and finally my bishop to share with them my theological differences with the RC church. All agreed that I needed to get out of the position of being a pastor in the RC church. It was not a good fit – not a healthy place for me to be.

Years earlier I had approached The Episcopal Diocese of Virginia about crossing the proverbial river into the Episcopal Church as a priest, and from my first conversation with The Diocese until this very day, my entire experience has been reasonable and positive. I was told in order to start I would have to leave everything: my housing, my sustenance, my health insurance, my retirement, everything. I was ready to do that.

When I left my last parish assignment I immediately began a Master’s in Social Work degree program at GMU. I am often asked to participate in therapeutic conversations. Since I am not trained for that kind of counseling I wanted to get that additional education and degree, so that in addition to spiritual encouragement, I could function as a therapist as well. Soon after I began the MSW program my mother became deathly ill, and in order to be more present to her I took a leave of absence from the graduate program. I hope to return to those studies at some time in the future. (But not right now!)

Journeys Converge

Instead I redirected my efforts with the Episcopal Church. After a year of Anglican studies, exams and being affirmed and approved on the parish and diocesan levels by committees, I was received as an Episcopal priest in February 2013. I immediately began interviewing and that was a very positive experience.

At around the same time that I left the RC Church, Emmanuel Episcopal Church began a discernment process to prayerfully consider its past, present and future. I began a similar process, and after nearly two years we found each other in the transition process and began a conversation which resulted in Emmanuel calling me as their next rector.

It took awhile, but I could not be more happy to be where I am today. The Episcopal Church has given me a way to continue God’s Call to the priesthood and for that I will be forever grateful. Emmanuel Episcopal Church has given me the opportunity to be of service to them, and to them I will also be forever grateful. I am humbled by this Call and ready to get started in parish ministry again.

Please keep me and Emmanuel in your prayers and know that you are in mine as well.

Peace friends,

Chuck

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5 Comments

  • Dottie Skeens says:

    Having been an employee and working with you for four years at Good Shepherd, I know that the people of Emmanuel Episcopal have received a gift in having you as their shepherd. You are a competent and caring leader, and you know to your core what is really important as you lead your flock. May God continue to guide you and bless you.

  • Joann Manzek says:

    Over the years, I have had people tell me, “Just wait, be patient…God has a plan.” I am so happy this has come true for you and Emmanuel Episcopal Church!

  • Barbara says:

    A few weeks ago we celebrated 48 years at our parish and used the following as our final blessing by Anthony Padavano from “Presence and Structure”. Your message today spoke of “connections” and we are so grateful for them to you.

    Life is a series of connections.

    When we understand the connections that bind us to the past and the future; to Christ and to one another; to the strangers on the road and the friends in our homes.

    When we connect water with wine; bread with Jesus; faith with doubt; tradition with presence; We are healed and become whole.

  • Meredith Wade says:

    Your story is inspired and inspiring, Chuck. It reminds me that we are all called to be true to God’s vision for us. Thank you for that reminder.

  • Rose says:

    Thanks for posting this thoughtful and open story of your journey – May this be helpful to those who have not fully understood the path you followed. Our prayers are lifted to God that He will continue to guide your path. What a blessing that you and Emmanuel EC did indeed find one another.

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