Postulant in the Ordination Process
In math, to postulate something is to "suggest or assume the existence, fact, or truth of (something) as a basis for reasoning, discussion, or belief" according to the Google dictionary. To "postulate" doesn't mean something IS true, but it is a suggestion of truth in order to debate, discuss, and test an idea. This is essentially what it means to be a Postulant in the ordination process.
Once you're approved as a Postulant in the Diocese of San Joaquin you propose a training regimen that must be approved by the Bishop. In our Diocese we have two options: the Diocesan school in Fresno, or the Episcopal School for Deacons in Berkeley, CA (www.sfd.edu)
I chose the School for Deacons in Berkeley and began courses in the Fall of 2015. All of the courses are designed to prepare the student to become a servant leader in the Episcopal Church, with a particular focus on social ministry. When I first started at the School I was very much a "Doubting Thomas", but after two years I have gained the confidence that I could really do this! (Although I admit it is still a crazy idea!!!)
The students spend a Saturday and Sunday on campus attending the courses, and then have three weeks to work on assignments at home before the next School Weekend. Students are from the Dioceses of: California, Northern California, El Camino Real, and San Joaquin.
In my first semester, one of my courses was "Listening and Caring Skills", which had an immediate effect on my personal relationships. Having come from a Union background where you engage in debate with others, your mind is focused on what your answer will be while the other person is speaking. It takes practice (and much role playing) to focus your mind on listening to what the other person is saying without trying to reply, debate, or fix.
After my third weekend of classes my wife asked me "So, how's the Listening Course going?" I replied "Well, it's called Listening and Caring Skills", to which my oldest daughter piped in "You mean you're going to care, too!?" We all had a great laugh together, and now I truly DO listen!!
To keep up with the homework for the courses, while working a full-time job with LOTS of travel, I've had to stay disciplined with scheduling. Typically, Monday after a School Weekend is reserved to unwind and set up my homework plan for the next 18 days. I spend 2 to 3 hours each night after supper reading and writing, and longer on Saturdays. Sundays I (try to) reserve for worship, family, and rest.
If I was doing all this by myself, I doubt I would ever make it. The School for Deacons, however, provides a community environment that pulls together the entire student body from all three years. The faculty are inspiring and includes many deacons who have already served in churches and communities. When you start with the idea that you must be a little cracked in the head, it certainly helps to be with like-minded individuals working towards the same goals!
Do I have doubts? Sure! Do I become tired and fatigued? Yes, absolutely, but just as I seem to be running out of gas, another School Weekend starts and I am refreshed when I see my brother and sister students, and the smiles that come with camaraderie.
Patience, persistence, and prayer helps each one of us continue on this path, but it is community, and the Spirit, that refreshes the soul.