The Church I serve as a priest can be a confusing thing to navigate even for those of us who are insiders to the lingo. Add to that the fact that much of our vocabulary is shared with a broader Christian world which does not always share our values, and I often find myself tripping over words. Below are some working definitions. Some of these are agreed upon at the denominational level in the canons and constitutions of our denomination and diocese, and some are personal to me. It’s an evolving thing.
>Advent: The season which marks the beginning of the Church year, consisting of the four Sundays before Christmas and the weekdays between. A time of preparation, when we remember that we expect that Jesus guy we’re always talking about to actually come back at the end of time in person.
CPE: Clinical Pastoral Education, as accredited by the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education. It’s that thing where they take your watches and feed you a ton of carbs and don’t let you sleep until you’ve broken down in a puddle of tears in which swim your gravest insecurities like blazé nine-year-olds at the community pool during the seventh week of Summer. Actually it’s an incredible professional opportunity where you get to wear a “Chaplain” badge -usually around a hospital- while reviewing your pastoral practice and presence with peer support. Every seminarian has to do a unit (3 months). Some crazy pastors do a Residency (4 units). I did my CPE Residency on the mental health unit of the VA Medical Center in Portland, Oregon.
GOE: General Ordination Exams, as overseen by the Episcopal General Board of Examining Chaplains. These are required by most dioceses for ordination to the priesthood, a week-long series of essays based in seven competency areas. They are pass/fail, and because I failed the area of scripture competency the Bishop of North Carolina invited me to re-take all of my basic scripture classes and that portion of the exam, to which I said, “YES, PLEASE!” I accomplished this in the esteemed MDiv program at Maryhusrt University in what I refer to as my “biblical year.”
Jesus Christ: my personal Lord and Savior. Some among my secular peers find it odd for a theological pinko like me to have such an evangelistically simple relationship with a dead man, but I am nothing if not a die-hard (get it?) devotee of the carpenter’s son from Galilee. The bottom line is that I believe the first folks to call themselves followers of the way 2,000 years ago experienced Jesus as someone who was still living among them even though he had been executed by the state, and that this experience of a Spirit of Life That Passes Beyond Death is what God is, and what they did their best to write about and practice inviting intentionally into their lives. My experience of this Spirit often resonates with the one they described, that we have records of in Christian scripture and history, and so I would be inclined to call them kin even if I hadn’t already been inducted into their heritage and traditions as a young child through Baptism.
priest-in-charge: this is a priest who runs a parish in a provisional or time-limited capacity, sometimes placed by a Bishop, sometimes called by a vestry. Different from a rector, who is typically called by a whole parish community to serve for an unspecified amount of time. An agreement with a priest-in-charge typically includes some provision for review before lengthening their appointment.