My wild and wonderful adventure – A Guest blog by Kate Merriman

Image by Людмила Аненко from Pixabay

Ken Gray and I first met in 1983 when we were Anglican ministry colleagues in the Diocese of Yukon. With Maylanne Maybee, he is currently co-editing a collection of essays in honour of Ellie Johnson, and it was Maylanne who put us in touch with each other. She knew that in the intervening years I had become an editor specializing in scholarly publishing. Ken kindly invited me to contribute a brief description of my combined vocations of ministry and editing.

In 2004, I had been losing sleep for the better part of a year. The Anglican church in Toronto’s St. Clair West area, where I served as incumbent, could no longer afford a full-time priest. In a part of the city bounded by Little Portugal and Corso Italia, the prospects for Anglican congregational growth were slim.

What to do?

Perhaps, I thought, I could work in the parish part-time and find another part-time job. I raised this possibility with parish leaders and the bishop, and we agreed that, rather than trying yet one more strategy for congregational growth, I would engage in  vocational discernment. Tim Elliott, another Anglican priest who specializes in vocational discernment, was my guide.

There were several components. First, in our conversations, Tim centred me in an experience of being created in God’s image, gifted, and called. We prayed together. I needed such encouragement: facing an unknown and uncertain future, I was afraid. Second, we touched briefly on the Myers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator, with which I was already familiar and which has helped me work more effectively with colleagues. Based on Jung’s theory of personality types, the questionnaire is intended to help people understand differences in personalities as positive and complementary and to improve personal and workplace relationships.

A word of caution: professional psychologists do not consider Myers-Briggs valid or reliable. The Birkman Method, the third component, is widely recognized by professional psychologists. Based on an extensive questionnaire, it identifies areas of strongest interest, usual behaviour, needs, and how we act under stress (when needs are not met). The results for my areas of interest and usual behaviour were what I expected. Identifying what causes me stress and how I react was the biggest revelation. The test results helped me to recognize that I place more than average emphasis on orderliness. Sudden demands to adapt fill me with dread; I expect the worst, and I become overcontrolling.

Fourth, I read What Color Is Your Parachute? and worked through the exercises. Incidentally, the author of this venerable resource, Richard N. Bolles, was an Episcopal priest. The manual is intended for anyone seeking a job or career change, be they secular, spiritual, or religious. As the title portends, the book is a joy to read. Bolles uses humour and whimsy while directly addressing fears and the stumbling blocks to finding one’s preferred job. An updated version is published every year, with other authors taking over after Bolles’s death in 2017.

In late November of 2005, out of the depths of my subconscious, editing emerged. I had never consciously considered editing as a career, yet when the thought appeared, unbidden and unexpected, my response was “Yes! I think I can do this. And I think I would enjoy doing this.”

The following four years were, in a word, bumpy.

Over the first year and a half, while still working full-time in the parish, I took three courses in the Publishing Program at Toronto Metropolitan University (formerly Ryerson Polytechnic). My sense that I would enjoy editing proved accurate; I loved it!  When the managing editor of a scholarly press asked one of the instructors if she knew an editor with a philosophy background (I had completed an MA and some doctoral work in philosophy prior to studying theology), she recommended me. The manuscript was an introduction to formal and informal logic, material I had taught to undergraduates for three years during my time as a teaching assistant. It was a match made in heaven. I had found my niche – scholarly academic publishing.

With my editing career launched, I reduced my work in the parish to half-time and then, after our parish developed a shared ministry with a neighbouring Anglican parish, I resigned. The Diocese of Toronto provides financial support to clergy who, for good reason, leave one church-related position without moving immediately to another, with the stipulation that if a suitable interim position arises, it must be accepted. This led to a part-time position two months later.

So far, so good.

But the part-time position ended after a year, leaving editing as my only source of income. I watched my savings steadily dwindle, relied on the kindness of family and friends, applied for five positions with the church (none of which I got) and registered early for CPP and the church pension. Finally, I secured another part-time ministry position. My work as a freelance editor grew through recommendations and repeat business until I had an adequate, if modest, income.

Has combining ministry and freelance editing been financially rewarding? For me, absolutely! The answer however, really depends on one’s attitudes and circumstances. I’m single and have no dependents. I enjoy the challenge of living within a budget. Someone with dependents, higher living costs, and/or a passion for travelling or collecting fine art might not describe my combined careers as financially rewarding.

But what of the other rewards? These are, to borrow a phrase from Mastercard, priceless.

First, I’m receiving a free, graduate-level education in the humanities. Second, I can put my specialized knowledge to productive use: for example, having the theological vocabulary to help an author describe the religious beliefs of ordinary Roman Catholics in fourteenth-century France, and replacing “cracker” with “wafer” to describe communion bread in a historical study of a radical Protestant denomination (thus averting a potential set-back in ecumenical relations!). And third, I’ve delighted in finding commonalities between working with authors and pastoral work, and between editing and preaching, both of which demand close attention to the text.

The most exhilarating experience, however, has been the merging of my two vocations in co-editing two festschrifts (collections of essays) to recognize colleagues in ministry. The first, for Wilfrid Laurier University Press, was in honour of Joanne McWilliam, a distinguished scholar on St. Augustine and the first woman to graduate from St. Michael’s College, Toronto with a PhD in philosophy. The second, for McGill-Queen’s University Press, was in honour of Senator Lois Wilson, the first woman to serve as moderator of the United Church of Canada and president of the World Council of Churches for North America and a tireless advocate for human rights.

It’s been a wild and wonderful adventure.

Kate Merriman is an Anglican priest and freelance editor who has worked in the scholarly publishing field for almost 18 years. She has edited scholarly journals and books on philosophy, history, theology, religious studies, political science, literary criticism, and art.

3 thoughts on “My wild and wonderful adventure – A Guest blog by Kate Merriman

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  1. I am forever indebted to Kate Merrimack for suggesting a field placement at Six Nations when I, as a then non ordination track M Div student, didn’t fit the normal criteria for a field placement. I was told by one supervisor that I wouldn’t be allowed to preach because I didn’t have a call to ordained ministry. It was her wisdom that put me in the right place at the right time to discern where God was calling me. Please send her my regards. I had no idea you two knew each other.

    Liked by 1 person

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