My blog readers should know that giving me broad parameters for a monthly article in the Parish Newsletter is probably not a good idea...
The Curate's Corner
“Hello, my name is Ryan...and I am a recovering seminarian.”
Greetings to you all. I have been asked by the powers that be to contribute regularly to the Lion's Roar. This is a task I am quite happy to do as your new curate. I enjoy writing and look forward to the challenge of coming up with something dreadfully clever to write for the Roar. I tend to write with a Dave Berry style humor, as you have probably already guessed from the title of my article. Please take my scribblings with a light heart. At the very most, you will likely get a chuckle; at the very least, you are offered the chance to save the planet by contributing to paper recycling.
I am still adjusting to life after seminary, and I must say that I am thoroughly enjoying it. These changes range from getting acquainted to a new congregation's way of doing liturgy to learning names (and quirks) of parishioners to acclimating to sane “rush hour” traffic again. Having spent the last three years entrenched in Chicago gridlock, moving back to Lincoln has been quite a treat in that respect.
I have also been honing my skills in how to respond when someone asks me what a “curate” is or does. I am convinced that under the definition of curate, an encyclopedia entry should include the following addendum, “For further information, see articles entitled: 'Work in Progress,' 'Duties as Assigned,' 'The Church Pension Fund and You' and 'What They Didn't Teach You in Seminary but Should Have.' ”
Included in the learning curve is the fact that I have never actually been at a parish that had a curate. In some ways, I feel like I am making it up as a go along. As far as I can tell, the word “curate” is derived from the Latin word curatus which is a derivative of curo, which, according to Wheelock's Latin means “to care for, pay attention to, or trouble about.”
From this Latin word curo evolved the modern words curator (see: Museum) or curia (see: Roman Catholic Hierarchy) or, in my case, curate (see: On the Care and Feeding of Clergy). By the middle ages, a curate was the cure of souls. That's fancy medieval Churchspeak for the parish priest whose primary duty was, in theory, the pastoral ministries. In the Church of England, the term evolved (or devolved as the case may be) into meaning an assistant priest or deacon.
There is still a somewhat diminutive, if telling, British expression that is occasionally used called “the curate's egg.” The term was first coined in an editorial cartoon entitled “True Humility” in the British magazine Punch from the year 1895. In the cartoon, a timid looking curate is having breakfast with the Bishop. They are wearing frock coats and sitting at a prim and proper Victorian breakfast table. The bishop says to the curate, "I'm afraid you've got a bad egg, Mr. Jones". Apparently trying to avoid offending the bishop or to appear to be currying favor, the curate replies, "Oh, no, my Lord, I assure you that parts of it are most excellent!" Thus, the phrase “the curate's egg” evolved into meaning something that is partly good and partly bad, but as a result the thing itself is totally spoiled despite “the parts that are excellent.”
I certainly hope my job does not fall into the “trouble about” category as the original Latin definition seems to suggest. I am not even sure what that means, and I hope to keep it that way. I do fancy the idea of being a Cure of Souls, as frightening a notion as that is. I certainly hope my ministry here does not end up being the curate's egg. I do look forward to getting to know you all better. Please feel free to stop in any time, as my door is always open. I won't be wearing a frock coat or serve you any eggs, but I might be persuaded to brew up a pot of tea. We can talk about anything you like, even how much you simply loved my article in the Roar.
-The Rev. Deacon Ryan, curate extraordinaire (and other titles as assigned)