Two dozen people – a majority of them interested in exploring potential calls to be ordained Episcopal priests or deacons, or simply seeking deeper forms of lay ministry – participated in the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh’s first Ordination Exploration Day.

Joined by Bishop Robert Johnson and the Commission on Ministry, more than 30 people in all gathered for the event, held this past Saturday, June 6, at Calvary Episcopal Church in East Liberty.

"This is a sign of a healthy Diocese, to have so many interested in ministry," said Bishop Johnson. "People are focusing on the present and future, not the past," the Bishop noted.

The event allowed participants to hear first-hand reflections about lay and ordained ministry, and to learn more about the process of discernment and ordination in our Diocese.

The Bishop set the tone for the day, providing an overview of ministry based on our Baptismal Covenant. "This is a call, not something we want to do on our own," the Bishop told the group, adding "As Jesus said, ‘You did not choose me, but I chose you.’"

A panel discussion of lay and diaconal ministry was presented by Commission members Jessie Hipolit of Emmanuel, North Shore, the Rev. Jean Chess, Archdeacon of the Diocese and a Deacon at St. Andrew’s, Highland Park, and the Rev. Ann Staples, a retired Deacon.

"I was learning how to partner with God," said Jessie Hipolit in sharing how she deepened her commitment to lay ministry over time. "Sometimes I called on God, and sometimes God called on me."

Archdeacon Jean Chess described the role of deacon as a bridge-builder between those who are often not noticed, and in need of care.

The Rev. Ann Staples related how she was planning to play peacemaker later that Saturday night on the streets of North Cambria. As Director of the Coal Valley Youth Center, www.coalcountryhangout.org, she needed to quell a simmering conflict between the Center’s kids and local residents, and felt the need to ask associates to "watch her back."

"If you’re not being shot at, at least once a week, you’re not doing your job!" the Rev. Staples said, summing up what she learned in becoming a deacon 25 years ago.

The Rev. Kris Opat, Curate at St. Paul’s, Mt. Lebanon, and the Rev. Scott Quinn, Rector of Nativity, Crafton and Canon to the Ordinary, discussed priestly ministry.

"Ministry has many ups and downs," said Scott Quinn, adding that the key was to work through them until a deep relationship is formed between a priest, his or her congregation, and the church.

Wrapping up, the Rev. Lou Hays, Rector of St. Paul’s, Mt. Lebanon, discussed the ordination process as provided in the Canons of the Episcopal Church and how the Commission is working to develop Diocesan procedures for discernment and ordination that will be transparent, collegial, and supportive.

Participants were fairly evenly divided as to gender and area of interest. Several spouses and clergy members attended as a show of support.

They represented ten parishes: St. Andrew’s, Highland Park; Calvary; Christ Church, Indiana; Church of the Redeemer, Squirrel Hill; St. Matthew’s, Homestead;  St. Paul’s, Mt. Lebanon; St. Peter’s, Brentwood; St. Stephen’s, McKeesport; St. Stephen’s, Wilkinsburg; and St. Thomas, Oakmont.

To contact Commission members, visit the Commission on Ministry page on the diocesan website at http://www.episcopalpgh.org/about/commission-on-ministry/

The Rev. Lou Hays contributed to this report.

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