This summer, I worked at my home parish, St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan, through the Candler Advantage internship program. I wanted to experience what full-time priestly ministry was like, so I spent the summer preaching, doing pastoral care visits, attending meetings, and making connections within my home diocese. An incredible priest mentored me, encouraged me in so many ways, and worked with me in the areas I needed to grow.

Additionally, I spent a significant amount of time at Plainsong Farm, a new farm-based ministry that seeks to connect creation care and Christian discipleship. One of the questions that led me to seminary was, “How can our faith impact our food system to create a more sustainable planet and justice for all God’s people?” I began to wonder this while I was working on a farm, and went to seminary to dig into the academic side of the question. Candler Advantage enabled me to explore my question through hands-on experience.

This summer was largely about discernment for me. I was able to spend time deciding if ordination and full-time priesthood is the right fit for me, while being immersed in it. Even though I felt a strong calling from God, I still wondered if I could fulfill this call through another vocation. However, through experiencing full-time ministry and gaining confidence in my abilities, I discerned that the church is where I am meant to be, and will continue to pursue that wholeheartedly. Being steeped in a full-time ministry context gave me a great opportunity to try it and discern my calling without huge risk.

I signed up for three preaching dates throughout the summer. My first one just so happened to be the Sunday after the shootings in Louisiana, Minnesota, and Texas occurred. I could sense the tension and despair in our world and in my church community. What would I say? What do we preach in times of tragedy and division? My Candler experience has taught me numerous things about prophetic speech, racism, activism, and love that I was able to incorporate in my sermon. I am still heartbroken about the events, but I am also grateful for the experience to be able to give God’s Word to God’s people during such a painful time.

I also got to lead the first-ever worship service at Plainsong Farm. It was my responsibility to create and lead the liturgy! It was incredible to be able to do something that was a little out of my comfort zone. To be trusted with this responsibility was a huge encouragement. It was also affirming to see how people were connecting food and faith in their own lives. I am more motivated than ever to urge Christians to be better stewards of creation.

I didn’t fully realize how much Candler prepared me for ministry until I participated in Candler Advantage. I was able to see and experience what I learned in my classes through my work this summer. My 12-person Candler Advantage cohort also developed strong bonds, and I know I will count on them to help me reflect on ministry for the rest of my life.

Candler Advantage has made me even more thankful for the education I’ve received over the past two years, and has pushed me to be a better student in my third year. Instead of ‘checking out,’ I am motivated to learn as much as I can because I know it will be applicable in the years to come. The program is one of my top five favorite things about being a student here. I can’t say thank you enough to Candler Advantage and all that it offered me. I feel like I learned a whole year of ministry lessons in 10 weeks. This experience will make me a more focused student, and a better priest.