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Reflecting with the Rector: The Curate

The year I graduated seminary (2008), I joined the staff of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Portsmouth, New Hampshire as their curate. I vividly recall Annie and I moving into the home that St. John’s traditionally used as the rectory (Annie and I facetiously called it the curatorium). I was only twenty-five years old. Can you imagine how young I looked then? It was my very first job as a cleric to be sure, but in many ways, it was my first adult job.

As a curate I was a generalist for St. John’s. My job was to learn how to live into the many aspects of parish ministry from my rector, but also to learn from the parishioners with whom I served. Under the direction of my rector, I led youth group, Sunday school, adult formation, preached sermons, married, buried, baptized, and (I think) even helped grow the church.

The canons (the laws) of the Episcopal Church essentially denote two types of priests: rectors and non-rectors. It used to be that every rector spent two to four years receiving mentorship in a curacy that would then prepare them for a career of service to the church. By the time Annie and I graduated seminary, curacies were few and far between due to the decreasing number of churches able to afford multiple clergy. Yet somehow, we both were given the tremendous opportunity of mentorship in the beginning of our careers.

This Sunday, we will hear the Rev. Edward Lowe preach at all of the services at Church of Our Saviour. When I met Edward, he was a graduate student at Duke Divinity School well on his way to be ordained as a priest. A New Englander like myself, Edward found himself in Fayetteville because his wife Charlie was deployed there. Edward worked as my curate as he was ordained to the priesthood. He is now the Associate Rector at a church in Atlanta.

As we plan for our future, Church of Our Saviour is considering many staff options for our shared future, one of them being a curate. What would it look like for us to welcome, lift up, and support a new person in her/his ministry?

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