Reflection on my DOV internship at Memorial Episcopal
by Bruno Reich
I want to thank everyone at Memorial again for having me over the past 8 months as a DOV (Discerning Ordained Vocation) intern. It has been more rewarding than I could have imagined and I shall always hold this experience close to my heart. I made many new friends and felt so at home with the people I met. It was enlightening to be involved in an urban church in a completely different context.
The purpose of the internship is to be exposed to all of the different aspects of the work of the church and in possibly new and challenging ways. The Tuesday morning Peace and Justice service meets in the West Transept side chapel and is regularly attended by a group of 10 to 15 people who are long time members of Memorial. Breakfast in the Fellowship Hall follows the service - a great time to talk to the regulars and get to know the last 50 years of history of Memorial, the politics and workings of city life and social justice issues that Memorial undertakes. The Faith at 8 Service in the Fellowship Hall on Sunday mornings is attended by 10 to 20 and is a amore diversified group. The service includes a discussion time inspired by the readings and questions posed to the group by Fr. Grey. I was often impressed by the deep faith, insights, experiences and knowledge of the group. I heard poetry recited, off the cuff speeches on racial issues, scriptural exegesis and many other moving exhortations from this group. I so much enjoyed listening to the workings of the minds of the people at Memorial – the atmosphere there seems to allow a real freedom of expression.
I was part of the regular altar crew at the Sunday 10:30 worship services in the Sanctuary. I haven’t spent that much time on the altar since I was a 13 year old acolyte. I love the ancient traditions that we keep. The procession, the order of the worship, the readings, the hymns, the Eucharist – all of this leading us back through countless generations connecting us to ancestors and to the life of Jesus. From the altar I can see how attentive the entire congregation is. I thought that the Blue Mass before Christmas was especially moving, but I was sorry that, in a city that has so much pain, that it wasn’t attended by more. The incredible space of the Sanctuary with the grand gothic arches, byzantine columns, limestone altar, stained glass and heavy timber trusses is such a perfect setting for the high services on the holidays.
Much of the work at the altar was new to me and many procedures at Memorial were different than I was used to but I was very lovingly guided in all of it by the others and learned so much more about the detail that goes into organizing services. Although much of my professional life is work in the public realm, I had never given a sermon before. I’m sure that I both overworked my preparation and still made mistakes – but the congregation was very understanding and encouraging, realizing that these were my first attempts. However, I do feel that I have the ability to articulate the important messages of our faith and to do it in ways that inspire and motivate. My life experiences have brought me to a point where the message to me is so much more than words. I would say that preparing for and delivering the sermons was the most challenging part of the internship and the place where I learned the most.
I was very impressed by the number of other ministries at Memorial and by the dedication of the people in them – The Samaritan Community, Strong Schools, Sustainability, the work with Brown Presbyterian, Corpus Christi and other local churches, the various programs on racial reconciliation and diversity, etc. I was fortunate in my childhood to be involved in many of these same efforts and it was enlightening to see how our church is working on them in places that make a difference. My career has concentrated on designing and building churches. I think that God has given me the unique opportunity to work with many faith traditions, all forms of mainline Christianity, Judaism, Orthodox Christianity, Unitarianism, fundamentalist groups, and others. But I have to say that I continue to love the Episcopal church even more and the inclusivity within our own community. To me Memorial is a real gem in the center city – it and our faith have so much to offer that is underappreciated and underutilized. I will continue to pray for them and the good work they are doing. I came to love the people there and was very sad to leave.
I was an extremely busy 8 months. Besides work at the regular services, I organized bible study, adult formation, outreach efforts, went on pastoral visits and had regular meeting with the intern discernment committee. I took classes at St Mary’s Ecumenical Institute and Seminary, worked with the DOV group at the Diocese, was part of an EFM group at St Andrews, Glenwood, and stayed connected with the men’s group at my home parish, St John’s Ellicott City along with regular sessions with my spiritual director – not to mention designing a few new churches and running my business. It was challenging and exhilarating at the same time, really testing my ability to prioritize, delegate and keep my regular practices of prayer and meditation. Being in this new setting allowed me to grow personally and spiritually - a feeling of being constantly recreated. As energized as I am to be among other followers of Jesus I equally enjoy times of solitude, reflection and connection to nature – I was eager to escape to places where there’s no sound of cars or sirens only the chirping of birds and the rustling of leaves - so I send my regards from the trail. I thank the diocese for this opportunity, Memorial for hosting me and God for every day of life.
PAX ET BONUM,