Young adults considering a call to ordained ministry in the Anglican Church of Canada will soon have the chance to explore that possibility with the support of the largest Anglican church in Toronto. Starting in September, a group of 3-5 apprentices will become the inaugural cohort of the Ministry Apprenticeship Program at St. Paul, Bloor Street, spending a year in service, study and spiritual formation.
The Ministry Apprenticeship Program, or MAP, was imagined before the pandemic when the Rev. Canon Dr. Barry Parker was the incumbent of St. Paul’s. As part of a capital campaign, members of the parish raised $800,000 for the program, but with the onset of the pandemic and Canon Parker’s retirement, there was no opportunity to use it.
“It was really at that point just a concept and little more than the name – the idea that St. Paul’s should be an incubator for gospel ministry in Toronto and encourage new people to consider ministry,” says the Rev. Dr. Tyler Wigg-Stevenson. An associate priest at St. Paul’s since early 2021, Mr. Wigg-Stevenson will be MAP’s director in its inaugural year.
Bishop Jenny Andison also joined St. Paul’s in 2021 as its new incumbent, inheriting the concept for MAP and an untouched pool of money. It was up to the parish’s new leadership team to fill in the details. “Our thinking was, what are the greatest needs of the Church – not just St. Paul’s, but the Church in the diocese and, more broadly speaking, in the province and the national church – and what are the gifts that St. Paul’s has to offer?” says Mr. Wigg-Stevenson.
The result is a program aimed at helping young adults discern a possible vocation to ordained ministry, particularly those who may not be ready to commit to an expensive and time-consuming master’s degree. “It’s putting this idea in front of them and giving them a chance to explore that,” says Mr. Wigg-Stevenson. “If you get people being ordained in their late 20s, you’re talking about people who can offer decades of service to the Church, and who can offer some liveliness to the Church as it is right now.”
Applicants don’t need to be Anglican, but they need to be open to serving in an Anglican church and should be able to affirm the historic Christian faith as articulated in the Apostles’ and Nicene creeds. They also need to have completed at least a post-secondary degree, which is a pre-requisite for admission to seminary, a logical next step for an apprentice who discerns a call to ordained ministry.
In addition to fostering vocations among young people, Mr. Wigg-Stevenson says MAP is committed to racial and economic justice, areas he suggests have not always been intentionally considered by diocesan programs and processes in Canada.
From an economic standpoint, the program includes full room and board at Wycliffe College for the year, as well as $500 a month for personal expenses. “We wanted to make sure this was going to be available for people from all economic backgrounds. There shouldn’t be any economic reason why this is prohibitive to anyone who’s interested in applying,” says Mr. Wigg-Stevenson.
The leadership team is also planning to encourage applications from individuals of racial and ethnic backgrounds that are currently underrepresented in Church leadership. “St. Paul’s right now just looks like Toronto, this tremendous growth from all over the world,” he says. “We want the front of the church increasingly to look like the pews, and we know that has to start with encouraging vocations.”
Apprentices will spend the year rotating through the ministries at St. Paul’s, getting a taste of the variety of ministry possible in a church. They will be exposed to areas like young adult, youth and children’s ministry, digital ministry and creative arts, small group ministry, and both contemporary and classical Anglican worship.
“I think St. Paul’s really offers a learning environment where someone can experience all the different aspects that go into contemporary ministry, and experience them in a way that I hope is flourishing and hopeful,” says Mr. Wigg-Stevenson.
He’s also confident that the people of St. Paul’s will provide the kind of community support that a young person in discernment needs. He hopes to be able to pair apprentices with lay mentors who will walk with them through the year. “There’s a certain unpredictable magic when you put Christians together – you just don’t know how it’s going to work out – but I have every trust that St. Paul’s, as a church that historically has valued lay leadership, is going to find that alchemy of what it looks like to welcome these people into our community and to help them along their way for the year that they’re with us,” he says.
Since the discernment process is open-ended, there is no pre-determined outcome to an apprentice’s year in MAP. They could choose to enroll in seminary or discover that they’re being called to a different vocation or career.
“In an ideal world, God’s calling someone into ministry, they’re feeling pretty confirmed in that calling by midway through MAP and they’re able to write their seminary application while they’re in MAP and move straight into seminary,” says Mr. Wigg-Stevenson.
As for apprentices who don’t discern a call to ordained ministry, he says he will feel “quietly confident in the Holy Spirit’s leadership that this is going to be someone that’s well poised to serve the Church in a different way in a lay capacity moving ahead.”
As applications close and the interview process gets underway, Mr. Wigg-Steveson says he’s most looking forward to getting to know the apprentices. “I’ll have the privilege of walking alongside a handful of people who are really trying to listen to the Spirit and be open to the calling of God into priestly ministry or whatever God might be calling them to,” he says. “I don’t know who they are, but God knows who they are.”
Applications for the first MAP cohort close on April 14, and Mr. Wigg-Stevenson says he’d encourage anyone who might consider applying to go for it. “If you are a young adult who thinks, for whatever reason, that you might like to consider what it would be like to serve the Church, then why not take a year?” he says. “The worst case scenario is that you spend a great year working in a great place alongside great people, attending to your own spiritual formation, and in the end decide to go in another route.”
Meanwhile, the team at St. Paul’s is hoping that MAP is just one example of new ways the Holy Spirit is working in the broader Church to open the possibility of ordained vocations to more people. “I hope that what we’re doing at St. Paul’s is part of something bigger that God is doing with the Anglican Church of Canada,” says Mr. Wigg-Stevenson. “I’m excited to see what it looks like.”
To learn more about MAP, visit www.stpaulsbloor.org/map.