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GOE Week Hospitality

The first week of January for seniors in seminary involves taking the General Ordination Exams, or GOEs.  Some people, over time, have sarcastically referred to these examinations as "God's Own Exam."  They are required tests of persons seeking ordination in the Episcopal Church that are written and critiqued by the General Board of Examining Chaplains. 

The GOEs consist of seven (7) three to three-and-a-half hour essay questions which are administered over the course of five days.  This year (2011), there are a morning and afternoon pair on Monday and Tuesday, with Wednesday providing a much welcome and needed respite, then continuing Thursday with another morning/afternoon pair, and concluding Friday Morning. Morning questions began at 9 a.m. and afternoon questions resumed at 1:30 p.m. Several of the seniors have lamented testing on Thursday (Jan. 6th) will keep them from observing Epiphany, except in spirit.

The seven canonical areas examine proficiency in and application of 1) Holy Scriptures; 2) Christian Ethics & Moral Theology; 3) Christian Theology; 4) Contemporary Society; 5) Church History, including the Ecumenical Movement; 6) Theory & Practice of Ministry; and, finally, 7) Liturgy & Church Music.  Sources available to consult are limited to an annotated Bible, a Concordance, The Book of Common Prayer, 1982 Hymnal, Lift Every Voice & Sing (LEVAS), and Wonder, Love & Praise (which I like to call 'Wallop'); in a few instance, no resources are permitted. Oooh!

My opportunity at the GOEs comes next year.  So, as a Middler in seminary, I agreed to honcho the hospitality offered to the test takers this year: I coordinated worship leaders for Morning Prayer during the week while also serving as chapel sacristan, shepherded a hospitality room full of foods, snacks and drinks from the community for those taking the GOEs on The Holy Hill, and facilitated prayer partners (warriors) for each individual.  I have used this time to be on-site, trying to get ahead on reading for my own January Term classes on Anglican and Ignatian Spirituality later this month with The Most Rev. Frank T. Griswold, retired 25th Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church.

It has been fun to be on The Hill as people stroll into the hospitality room to get off their butts, stretch their legs, get some comfort food (notice I did not say nourishment, although there have been some good & healthy things to nosh on). Once the 3.5 hours comes and goes, the camaraderie has been really neat to observe.  Comments as to the applicability of the question to their sense of ministry, the absurdity of arguing from one position and then to offer a rebuttal, and then to argue from the opposite position and compose a rebuttal to that, or the occasional "where the hell did that come from?" reaction.  This was all illuminating to me. But it did help me resolve to take the tests next year on The Holy Hill to take in the joy of community after completing each challenge.  I hope those who tested elsewhere had someone to vent with.

It has been my honor and privilege to help offer some hospitality to these folks.  The hospitality of the VTS community has been wonderful. I can only hope we'll receive the same next year.