This week I have been a reader of the General Ordination Exam, or GOEs. The Readers Conference is hosted by the General Board of Examining Chaplains of the Episcopal Church. See http://www.episcopalgbec.org/ We have been meeting at Kanuga Conference Center in the mountains of western North Carolina.
It has been exhausting but also inspiring: the readers, both clergy and laity from around the country, are committed and faithful people. It might surprise seminarians (and hopefully encourage them) to know that like most gatherings of this type in The Episcopal Church, the conference is permeated with prayer,both public and private. We celebrate Morning Prayer at the beginning of each day and Compline at the end, with Holy Eucharist at 5 p.m. We pray for the candidates, who are unknown to us, as we read the words they have written. We pray for the Church, for wise and discerning ordained leaders to emerge who know that "head and heart" can work together for the sake of the Kingdom and that a learned clergy requires work and discipline.
I suppose there is no way to avoid the anxiety that seminarians feel about taking the GOEs. But perhaps greater transparency about the grading process would somewhat lessen people's nerves; to know that no one expects a seminarian to know everything there is about the Bible, or Church History, or Ethics, or Liturgy--but that we do care greatly about "inquiring and discerning hearts," and raising up ordained leaders who know something of the breadth and depth of the tradition we care so deeply about in 'The Episcopal Church. Like all things human, this process can become trivial and even mean. But at it's best, it is about trying to be faithful followers of Jesus Christ.