Who Knew There Were So Many Chipotles?

This is a post from Nicholas Evancho a seminarian from the Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania who just completed his first year at Virginia Theological Seminary.  Nicholas’ home church is Epiphany, Grove City.  To read about our other seminarians, Click here . 

200px-Virginia_Theological_Seminary_Alexandria,_VAMy first year of seminary has been an eventful and formative experience and more has happened in the last year than I ever expected. I have had the opportunity to connect with people from all over the Communion and the Episcopal Church in ways that have been both exciting and challenging. Being immersed in the Seminary community has shown the breadth of the Episcopal Church and the life and opportunities that are present in her.

During my first semester I had the privilege of singing in the choir at the consecration of the Immanuel Chapel presided over by Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori with Archbishop Justin Welby serving as preacher. It was exciting to meet them and other big names in Anglicanism and to put personalities and faces to the names that receive so much esteem in church circles.

Being a musician on campus and one of the staff choristers for the Seminary Choir has given me the opportunity to participate in the diverse liturgical life of the Seminary community. I have served as everything from soloist at Lessons and Carols to service organist, to the background pianist at a cocktail party for the Alumni Association 50th Reunion and everything in-between. My most rewarding musical experience has been being a part of the Schola Cantorum which performs acapella motets and chorales for services of Solemn Evensong and other special services throughout the year. This is a totally student run ensemble that has managed to grow into a professional quality group that has become a valued part of the worship life of the community.

red-peppers-296655_640It has also been exciting, and at times scary, to get my first car while living in the Washington, DC area. I have been able to venture around DC and to see many of the monuments and museums that are scattered throughout the city. I have also gotten to take advantage of my horrible sense of direction since many of my discoveries in the city are due solely to my ability to get lost following even simple directions. (Who knew there were so many Chipotles?) It has been a joy to have many family and friends come and visit me and I have, as Bishop Sean warned me I would, become a great DC tour guide over the last year. It was a special gift that many of my classmates from Grove City got together for a reunion in the DC area and spent the weekend together playing games and catching up on developments in life.

For the first semester this year I was able to visit different parishes around the Dioceses of Virginia, Maryland, and Washington in order to find a place to serve as parish seminarian for the following two years. These churches ranged in character and history spanning from parishes at which George Washington and Robert E. Lee attended, to the National Cathedral, to those with newer worship styles using praise bands and contemporary liturgical ideas. I eventually settled on doing my Field Education at Christ Church, Georgetown which is an historic parish in the oldest neighborhood in the DC area. I am excited to serve there each Sunday and to begin to experience the life of a congregation unlike any I have ever encountered.

Now that I have finished my first year I have completed studies in New Testament, Greek Translation, Old Testament, History of Spirituality, Liturgical Music, and the Theory and Practice of Ministry. These classes have not only enriched me academically but some even involved community volunteer work that broadened and expanded my understanding of what it means to be a minister to a wide range of people. These classes have prepared me to enter Clinical Pastoral Education this Summer during which I will serve as a chaplain at a local Nursing Home/Rehab center in order to get experience with ministry in crisis situations. This will certainly be a great opportunity to grow in my vocation and begin to practice ministry in real-world situations.

Your prayers are greatly appreciated as I continue on my journey and I could not do any of it without the support of the great and Godly people of the Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania. If you would like to continue to follow and support my journey you can find periodic updates at my website: http://www.walkingtowalsingham.com

Nicholas Evancho

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Trusting the Call

This is the first in a 3 part series highlighting the stories of the three members of our diocese who will be starting seminary this year.  Click here to see the second installment about Nick Kuchcinski.

1381374_309843139154662_231990307_nNicholas Evancho is a smart young man with a strong faith. He grew up in a single parent home attending the Presbyterian church where his mother was an elder. He began playing the organ at the age of 8 and read the Suma Theologica (the 3000 page compendium by Thomas Aquinas) for fun when he was young. He graduated Valedictorian from his high School in Hamburg, N.Y. and headed off to Grove City College for pre-med. He received a rude awakening and found his faith challenged by the theology at Grove City College. Now, almost 4 years later, he is going to graduate a changed man.

Nicholas is one of three members of our diocese beginning seminary this year, our diocese’s first seminarians since 2010. He has always been interested in religion and was very supported by his mother who took him to church and Sunday School. Nicholas thought about becoming a priest in high school but didn’t think he would actually go through with it. He felt that becoming a doctor was a more financially stable profession. However, the call kept gnawing at him. He continued to play the organ at his home church in New York and continued meeting with the Presbyterian pastor there who made him believe he had what it took to become a priest. It was on a trip to Boston that he attended Trinity Church in Copley Square (a 280 year old Episcopal church) and felt called to become an Episcopalian. This led him to Church of the Epiphany in Grove City and to his own epiphany.

Church of the Epiphany became a refuge for Nicholas. They not only helped him with practical things like rides but they also helped him emotionally. He had a hard time at college and it became a place where he could talk. He often had tea with Epiphany’s deacon, the Rev. Tricia Lavery when life got stressful. “They have given me more than I could have asked,” Nicholas says. He has found a church home there as well. He has played the organ, served as an acolyte, sung in the choir, led morning prayer, and been a Eucharistic Minister and a Eucharistic Visitor. Church of the Epiphany is also where Nicholas found answers to the questions about his faith that were started when he began to attend Grove City College. It “gave me a more loving interpretation of what I always believed.”

It turns out it was only a surprise to himself when he discerned the call to the priesthood.  Looking back he remembers going to graduate school fairs and spending more time talking to the seminaries than to the medical schools. His mother, who Nicholas describes as “the biggest influence in making me believe I could make it to where I am now,” was not surprised at all by this decision. Early on during a bible study at Church of the Epiphany, after a comment Nicholas made, Cheryl Wild (wife of the Rev. Geoff Wild, the vicar at Church of the Epiphany) said, “And thus spoke our next Episcopal priest.” Nicholas remembers thinking she was insane at the time. Then Nicholas attended the diocesan convention during his sophomore year. Getting to meet all the clergy and getting to participate in the church cemented the decision for him.

Nicholas is a changed man: “I finally decided to let my judgment go and trust that the rest would be taken care of.” He no longer needed the notion of financial stability through becoming a doctor. Nicholas will attend Virginia Theological Seminary this fall. He anticipates enjoying the Chapel as well as the tight knit community there, eating and worshiping together every day. He also looks forward to having his faith and views challenged so he can grow and be sure his faith stands up. We too are eager to see the priest Nicholas becomes.

Julien Goulet, Assistant for Communications and Administration, The Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania