I am Chris Schaefer and I am a Postulant to Holy Orders for the Priesthood in the Episcopal Church in Arkansas. I am training through the Iona Initiative in Arkansas. Now that is a mouthful so let me explain.
What is a postulant?
Postulants for holy orders seek ordination as deacon or priest. The time involves meeting with the bishop of the diocese, examination by the Commission on Ministry, along with physical and mental examinations, and working with their local discernment committee. Postulancy is an initial time of preparation (lots of studying) and testing (General Ordination Examination) for ordained ministry.
What is the Iona Initiative in Arkansas?
The Iona Initiative in Arkansas is a three-year program to train new priests and deacons, many of whom already have full-time careers or are retired. The Iona program uses curriculum materials from the Diocese of Texas and the Seminary of the Southwest, and draws on the expertise of local instructors to offer high quality theological education. The academic areas include scripture, church history, and theology; class sessions on spirituality, liturgy, and music; and the theory and practice of ministry. The Iona Initiative enables those who are called to the priesthood or the diaconate to answer the call by training locally. This training provides the diocese with much needed priests and deacons to serve free of charge in Arkansas congregations.
What is your background and how did you get here?
My husband Jerry and I moved to Bella Vista three years ago from the North Little Rock area where we had lived for almost 35 years and where we raised our children. Bella Vista is our retirement "forever" hometown. That is when he decides to retire. We were active members of St. Luke's Episcopal church in North Little Rock.
I was raised Catholic, attending 12 years of Catholic school. The Catholic tradition provided me a deep love of the Eucharist and gave me prayer when I couldn't find the words. After facing a spiritual dry time for a long time, a dear friend invited me to attend St. Luke's Episcopal church with her. After attending I knew God had lead to a new home! I had come home. I was received into the Episcopal Church in 2008. Jerry was received three years later. I became a Daughter of the King, and a Community of Hope chaplain as well as much more involvement in our church. And now at St Theodore's my chaplaincy has expanded to providing devotionals on a weekly basis to assisted livings in the area as well as to memory centers. Visiting elders individually from our congregation as well as others is a great joy for me.
What does St. Theodore's mean to you?
It is hard to put love and acceptance into words. The community at St. Theodore's accepted us with open arms and once again we found home. They are all easy to love back. St. Theo's is a place that everyone can thrive and use our God given gifts. Such as teaching Sunday school for 1st thru 3rd graders, or being a chalice bearer, or serving at a reception after someone has just said goodbye to a loved one at a funeral service, or serving the homeless at the 8th Street Ministry, or sitting with someone after surgery or during a hard time, or praying with my sisters in Daughters of the King, all of which I have been honored to do. But maybe it is just sitting in the nave when the sun streams through the stained glass windows and knowing that you sit in the presence of the Lord.
Why the priesthood?
How do I explain the drive deep in my soul to become a Priest in the Episcopal Church? There is a need deep within me to become closer to God in the Eucharist, to serve and stand at the table of the Lord. To bring God’s word to those I minister to, both inside and outside the church. To have my soul leap for joy and my heart sing in His service. This is the answer to a call I have felt for a very long time. I feel God has chosen me to go and bear fruit and that He has given me a well-instructed tongue to know the word that sustains the weary. It has been a long path to reach a point of faith and courage to trust the Lord with all my heart and lean not on my own understanding. I look forward with great joy and anticipation to what God has planned for me.