So my usual summer hiatus from writing stretched on for several months more than usual. Not to offer excuses but in the last few months we have bought and renovated a house, moved from our home of 14 ½ years and I left my position at St Timothy’s and started a new gig working with my bishop on the staff of our diocese. OK- so I guess I am making excuses. But along with the new job I also picked up a new title…. You are now reading the words of The Reverend Canon Kirk Berlenbach, Canon for Innovation and Community Engagement.
Impressed? Probably not. More likely you are wondering just what the hell “Canon” means? Well you’re not alone. Folks might be more familiar with the term as it relates to church law (our bylaws are called canons) or perhaps as it related to the official accounting, history or contents of something. For example, different branches of the church have differing opinion as to which books of the bible are “canonical”… that is, which ones would be included in the “canon” of scripture. Or for non-religious types, my son uses the term in relation to anime or sci-fi. For example, according to him most of the DBZ movies are “not part of canon” which means they are not part of the official story line approved by Toriyama.
Naturally my new job would be a lot cooler and more fun if it meant I got shout “Kamehameha!” and make my hair turn silver but sadly that is not to be.
What I wish my new title empowered me to do
No, my “Canon” powers are much more mundane. Wikipedia explains it as follows:
“The title of Canon is not a permanent title and when no longer in a position entitling preferment, it is usually dropped from a cleric’s title nomenclature. However, it is still given in many dioceses to senior parish priests (including some Rural Deans, those who have played a role in the wider life of the diocese, those who have served in the diocese for a long time, or similar) as a largely honorary title. It is usually awarded in recognition of long and dedicated service to the diocese. Generally speaking, canons in the Anglican Communion are of this sort, and thus are equivalent to a monsignor in the Roman Catholic Church, often wearing the violet or violet-trimmed cassock which is associated with that rank.”
In real terms the title implies that I have some measure of expertise but apart from a new fancy cassock that is on order from the Wippell Company, my new title of Canon and $3 will get me a cup of coffee at Starbucks, just like everybody else.
What my official new duds will look like.
In truth, although I used the new title in my Twitter and Instagram handles (@canonkirk), what I’m really excited about is the work that comes with it.
While I truly loved my work at St Tim’s, in this new role I get to bring my experience to bear to assist many congregations simultaneously. I also have the privilege of working along our Bishop and my talented co-workers to help articulate a bold vision of what our Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania could become and how we can act to help change our communities for the better. And best of all, not only do I get to keep walking into bars, part of my new job is to teach other clergy and parishes that they should be too.