Field Ed Profiles: Suzanne Culhane '15

Suzanne CulhaneSuzanne M. Culhane '15, who is in her second year of Field Education at Christ Church Cambridge, talks about her experiences in the church.

Why did you choose Christ Cambridge for your Field Education unit?

Christ Church has a rich history and high visibility in Harvard Square. It is the oldest Church in Cambridge. I was first attracted to the parish through its strong liturgy and the vibrancy of the community. A relatively large parish, with approximately 225 people attending Sunday services, there is lots of activity and opportunity for ministry, including with families and children. The Church sponsors a significant diversity of programs including feeding programs, campus ministry and social justice concerns. And as my Burmese housemate remarked last year, with regard to the close location, “you can go there even in the snow times.”

What were your learning goals going into your Field Ed unit?

Last year I sought a broad learning experience in the areas of liturgy, preaching, church school, adult education, pastoral care, fundraising application, and governance and internal systems. This year, my learning has a much tighter focus. I am serving as the church school coordinator (more than forty kids!) and am also involved with liturgy and preaching.

What skills and experiences did you bring to Field Ed?Christ Church Easter 2014

In a general sense, I came to Christ Church as a life-long Episcopalian with a deep knowledge of the Church. I came to this Field Education experience with a strong background in liturgy, specifically the Anglo-Catholic style. My home Rector taught liturgy at seminary for decades and I was blessed to learn from him by serving as sub-deacon for more than ten years.

I also came to Christ Church with a strong career as a fundraising consultant to religious and social service organizations. I have been able to share best practices with the parish to enhance the annual stewardship effort and to see from the inside how this functions at the parish level.

Lastly, I came to the parish with experience as a lay Eucharistic visitor, having served in this capacity at my home parish for four years. Combined with CPE, this background has been especially useful in weekly pastoral care sessions and occasional sick visits.

What knowledge and skills did you gain from your experience?

Perhaps the most significant point of growth has been in the area of ministerial identity. My program at Christ Church is helping me to grow into the role of public minister and to begin to assume that personal perspective. I have found that even small pieces such as greeting parishioners at the door and processing with the clergy are truly helpful in taking up this identity. The feeling of being a part of a ministry team and to relate to colleagues and parishioners in this way is itself a rich learning experience.

This field education experience has only furthered my sense of call to the Priesthood—my desire to be a part of the sacramental life of the Church grows stronger each day. In particular, my call to parish ministry has also been affirmed—I believe I am called to be in relationship with a community for some time, helping them to grow in the knowledge and love of God.

What was the best part of your Field Ed experience?

The best part of my field education experience is feeling truly supported in my formation. Working with my supervisor, The Rev. Jonathan T. Eden, feels more like a companionship and mentoring relationship than supervision. I am able to bring to him all manner of personal challenges as well as points for theological reflection as my formation deepens. The ordination process can be very lonely at times and it is truly a blessing to have this day-to-day support and opportunity for dialogue.