The Episcopal Church of New Hampshire is launching a new training program that it hopes will make becoming a priest easier for people in different stages of their lives.
Rather than the traditional three years of training at seminary school, the diocese in New Hampshire will begin offering a certificate program next year that requires students to attend in-person trainings nine weekends a year while completing coursework independently from their homes.
“This really makes it easier for people to answer that call, whether that call to ministry comes in their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, we even have people doing this post-retirement,” says Tina Pickering, who works in ministry development for the Episcopal Church of New Hampshire.
Pickering says for many people who want to become priests, the realities of work and family - and even their non-church careers - often stand in the way.
“Increasingly our churches are hiring people part time, hiring who may be working in both the world and in the church, so it is a way of reflecting new realities of ministry,” she says.
Along with nine weekends a year of in-person training at the Episcopal Church in Tilton, students will complete curriculum online provided in part by the Iona Center at the Seminary of the Southwest. Pickering says approximately two-dozen other dioceses offer similar programs, though this is believed to be the first in northern New England.
Upon completion of the three-year program, priests will be expected to work at congregations in New Hampshire. The church aims to enroll between five and ten students next fall, and in the future will roll out programs for lay ministers.