I see that aspirants for holy orders in the Episcopal Church are finishing up an often frightening requirement for full entrance into the ordained ministry: General Ordination Exams, often referred to as the dreaded GOE’s.

Way back a thousand years ago (actually 40 some) I remember clearly taking the exams. In those primitive days, each diocese devised its own set of exams, and, of course, there was no internet to speak of. We typed our essay answers to the questions at home, and after revising and editing a hundred times, put them in a big envelope and walked or drove to the post office and put them in the mail with a wing and a prayer. Several weeks later our work was reviewed by the Board of Examining Chaplains and then, win or lose, we went out for (several) drinks to celebrate or grieve.

Since each diocese did its own, we of course believed that our diocese had the roughest exams, followed by even rougher examiners. I remember  sitting at the dining table in the house provided by my first parish as a curate (St. John’s Episcopal Church, Olympia, Washington), sweating heavily over the church history exam. The others were somewhat less scary.

All that heavy paper and typewriter ribbon has now been replaced by the much cleaner internet communication, allowing for last-minute revisions and edits. But the fear and anxiety anticipating the exams live on, to be sure.

I wonder how I would do faced with the set of exams today? I may have forgotten many of the details, but I suspect I would do more than all right with the bigger picture. Over forty years of practice in the ministry of the church surely ought to count for something.

Best wishes to the younger clergy coming along. Regardless of how well you do on these exams, chances are you will be a bright and shining star in the leadership of today’s and tomorrow’s church. I’m awfully glad you are here.



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