Not all faith journeys are like the Road to Damascus. Most of us do not get knocked off our horse with the blinding light of revelation. Many think that they need this kind of conversion for their faith story to be relevant. Canon Brian Reid has a different understanding. He believes that a slow and steady faith journey can lift you up. His journey is more like the road that the Good Samaritan found himself on when he helped the man beaten by robbers. The road where we do what faith demands of us without expectation of reward or blinding light revelations.
A cradle Episcopalian, Brian Reid was born in Detroit, Michigan, and took what he describes as a “bizarre” path to the priesthood, the type of path that we don’t see all too often these days. He went from high school to college and then straight to seminary and into the priesthood. He says that he knew in high school that he wanted to be a priest but this was not news to his family. “My parents said they knew from when I was little that I would be a priest.”
Brian was deeply formed by his experience in seminary at Nashotah House. He says it didn’t just give him an education, it formed him as a priest: “Nashotah made you know what a community is, how a priest is formed by and forms that community.” He felt that, in the midst of a society that was “experimenting” in the early 1970s, Nashotah grounded him in tradition. The experience of morning and evening prayer every day taught him that life does not have to have “one continuous spiritual high or one continuous spiritual low.” Slow and steady can lift you.
Within 6 months of his first assignment in an inner city church in Detroit, the rector left, essentially leaving Brian in charge. He headed up a predominantly white congregation in a predominantly black neighborhood: “I got to know all sorts of and conditions of people.” After that experience and some supply work, he found himself in the Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania (then known as the Diocese of Erie). “My mother grew up in DuBois and my aunt who still lived in Pennsylvania pestered the Bishop until he gave me a job.”
And this is where Canon Reid became the guru of Canons. As a young priest in the Diocese in the late 1970s, Father Reid was asked to be part of the Constitutions and Canons Committee. It was an important time for the Diocese as we were figuring out how to combine the Diocesan Council with the Board of Trustees. “Being new, I read the Canons and prepared by thinking about what we might do.” He became at his first Constitution and Canons meeting, and remains still, the Diocese’s go-to expert on the Canons. In fact, when we decided to simplify our structure after Bishop Sean’s consecration Canon Reid produced the first draft. He is humble about his expertise. Around 1980, Canon Reid, took classes at Penn State Behrend and now has the credentials to be a paralegal. “I guess I like the Law,” he says.
And the rest is an almost 40 year history of steady dedication and commitment to faith and to lifting up the people and congregations of this Diocese. Canon Reid has served at Osceola Mills, Houtzdale, Youngsville, Warren, Franklin, Brookville, Emporium, St. Mary’s, Rigeway and DuBois. He also has mentored countless students in his role teaching classes on scripture at the School for Ministry and his role on the Commission on Ministry. He has not only shaped the laws of the Diocese in his role on Constitutions and Canons but has helped guide the Diocese in his role on the Standing Committee. He even taught New Testament Greek in his time at Youngsville!
Canon Reid says that the Diocese is still struggling with the same issues it did when he first arrived, and even from when it first started in 1910, that we feel “small, poor and ignored and we struggle to become church in that context.” He says we will continue to struggle and that one of the glories of the Anglican Communion is what he calls, “Holy Plodding.” “You put one foot in front of the other.” His advice to new clergy is to “remember it is not up to you and it is not your responsibility to save the world but rather to continue plodding along with the task God has given you.”
Some of you may not know that Canon Reid is a pilot and has been since he was a teenager. He owns two planes and has flown to Vegas, Florida, the Bahamas, Northern Michigan, Colorado, Canada and Long Island to name just a few. Flying is a liberating experience for him. His philosophy about flying sounds like good advice for all of us: “You can’t be thinking about what you left on the ground. You have to attend to what you are doing.”
We are thankful for Canon Reid’s dedicated and steady attention to lifting up this Diocese.
Julien Goulet, Assistant for Communications and Administration, The Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania