10 things they did not tell me about being a priest

by Ann Fontaine

I was ordained on the Day of Epiphany 1996. Though I had been a very active Episcopalian and lay preacher, Eucharistic minister, serving in every area of the church: from Sunday School to Executive Council, for 20 years before ordination, I did not expect what I have discovered about being a priest. I resisted allowing myself to pursue this course of life for many years. If only I had known what was in store for me:

1. The wonderful privilege of presiding at the sacraments (well maybe not so much weddings unless the couple really loves what the rite offers them).

2. Working with an abundance of self giving leaders who serve as Senior Wardens, Junior Wardens, lectors, Eucharistic Ministers, Altar Guild, and all those who just quietly go about getting things done. Serving throughout the years as an interim priest, I was particularly blessed with wise and thoughtful Senior Wardens who were colleagues in healing and re-focussing their churches

3. The lawn mowing and gardening teams who keep the properties looking loved.

4. The questions about faith and life and the deep discussions about things that matter.

5. Being allowed to attend the dying, when we gather and sit and pray a person into the next part of their journey. As well as the opportunity to be with those whose lives will never be the same reaching out to each other, healing old wounds, being honest (not always -but often)

6. Preparing for and giving sermons – a process that almost always brings me new insights and the presence of the Holy Spirit. With thanks to my homiletics professor who made us really dig into the text and would not let us off with easy answers.

7. Children with hands held out to receive the bread and the wine, like the little boy who wrote thank and you on his hands – upside down so I would read them as he held out his hands or the little girl whose mother did not think she was old enough to receive but who slid her hands under the railing and looked at me with big understanding eyes.

8. Telling Bible stories that are both hilarious and endlessly revealing of who we are and who God is and how it all fits together.

9. Praying with people and thanks to the Assembly of God VA chaplain of my summer of CPE [Clinical Pastoral Education] who made this life-long Episcopalian of the Book of Common Prayer pray spontaneously at any moment!

10. And the most amazing sense of standing in the center of time when presiding at the Eucharist with all that went before and all that will be flowing through me at that moment of epiclesis.

If only I had known that I would never be more myself than in my life as a priest. Thanks to all who supported me along the way and allowed me to have this gift.

The Rev. Ann Fontaine is a retired priest who lives on the coast of Oregon and staff for Episcopal Café. She is the author of Streams of Mercy: a meditative commentary on the Bible.

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