Tim Gavin

On some level I also felt the call to the priesthood and to chaplaincy. Even when I was a wild teenager, staying out all hours of the night and having more fun than anyone should ever have, God was calling me. In my senior year of high school, when I initially responded to God’s call and entered a religious order, people scratched their heads in confusion. After I left the religious order and was accepted into the Episcopal Church, I still felt the call but ignored it. Finally, in my early forties, I conceded. At that point, my true journey to school chaplaincy started.

I am sure all ordained people identify with the frustration of answering, “How do you see yourself as a priest?” Obviously, ordination put an end to that question. However, for me when I answered it honestly, the journey became more challenging. Each time I answered, “I see myself serving as a school chaplain,” I received responses such as “Your idea of a vocation is too insular,” or “How will you find work in our diocese?” or “Why do you need to be a priest to serve as a school chaplain?” My call to chaplaincy became a roadblock to ordination.

Since ordination, I have become more involved in the diocese and people have learned the benefits of school chaplaincy. They now see school chaplaincy as a gift to the church which serves as an entry point for many families. They also realize school chaplains may know their flock more intimately than some parish priests. After all, we see our “parishioners” for eight-plus hours a day. School Chaplains work, eat, and live with those to whom they minister. More importantly, we provide a faith community alternative for a unique demographic.

In the end, my journey to school chaplaincy may have been long and winding, but the journey is far from over because as school chaplain I am still growing and developing. I am constantly trying to teach better lessons, offer better pastoral care, improve liturgy, provide better service opportunities, and minister to the students and their families the way Christ calls me to do so.

The Rev. Tim Gavin is Head Chaplain at the Episcopal Academy (Newton Square, PA).