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How to Become an Episcopal Priest

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The life of an Episcopal priest is a full one. Giving the sermon on Sunday is only a fraction of your responsibilities. You'll also meet with your parishioners to offer them comfort, encouragement, direction and a listening ear. You'll participate in conferences and administrative meetings with other members of the clergy. You'll see to it that the church's grounds and buildings are maintained and that fiscal records are accurate. You may be involved in helping the needy who visit your church and making arrangements with local grocers to provide food for the hungry.

It's a busy, all-consuming lifestyle. If you're passionate about spreading the Word of God and you enjoy helping people, it can also be a richly rewarding occupation.

Complete the Educational Requirements

The first step to becoming an Episcopal priest is usually earning a college education and attending seminary school -- though, in some cases, the bishop of your church may want you to put seminary school on hold until later. Applicants typically must hold a bachelor's degree to qualify for seminary school, but that degree doesn't necessarily need to have anything to do with religion. In fact, many seminary students were changing career directions when they entered the seminary.

One important thing to note: some bishops prefer to choose the Episcopal seminaries their priests attend. You may want to consult with the leaders of the church you'd like to represent before enrolling in seminary school.

Become a Familiar Face

Join the church. Your bishop may like to see you as a regular parishioner for a year or longer before he'll consider your application for priesthood. After this time, approach the rector to express your interest in being a priest. The process of choosing and approving a priest is called parish discernment.

The rector will assemble a discernment committee, which will in turn examine your qualifications and suitability for priesthood. This process may take several months.

Get Letters of Recommendation

If you're approved by the committee, the rector will write the bishop to let him know he's sponsoring your application for priesthood and by what means the discernment committee found you capable of fulfilling the role. After sending this letter, both the rector and discernment committee will sign and submit a parish recommendation form to the bishop.

Complete Application and Interviews

At this point, you'll complete and submit an application. You may have to write essays to demonstrate your Biblical knowledge and desire to be a priest. You'll go through a background check as well as physical and psychological evaluations. These include filling out a life history questionnaire. It should be noted that these evaluations aren't free.

The cost will likely depend on the church you're applying with. For example, in 2019, the total fees for the psychological testing and screenings for the Episcopal Diocese of Central Florida were $790 in addition to any cost the aspiring priest incurs for the medical exam. At this point, the bishop will review the results and determine if you're eligible for the priesthood.

Finish the Episcopal Ordination Process

Once you've made it this far, you'll now submit to interviews by each member of the church's standing committee, which acts as the bishop's advice council. The bishop will then review your file again and, if you're selected, he'll have you attend the discernment conference that is held several times a year.

During the conference, you'll be interviewed again, and the conference members will evaluate your suitability. The bishop will review their comments and meet with the standing committee one final time before admitting or denying you. If you're admitted, this is the point where you may begin seminary school, if you haven't attended already.