[Chronicle, July 24, 2020] On Thursday, July 9, 2020, Jennifer Briggs Latham was ordained to the Sacred Order of Priests at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Grinnell, Iowa, by the Rt. Rev. Alan Scarfe, Bishop of Iowa. For those in Hawai'i that were able to get up by 6:00 AM, they could watch the entire service live on YouTube (shown below).
The ordination, which usually brings a huge crowd together, was completely altered by the restrictions from the COVID pandemic. Attendance was limited to ten, and protective masks hid the smiles and emotions that go along with such an important and special occasion. But despite the constraints, the service was no less meaningful. The readings, music, and most of the speeches were delivered virtually, with folks far and wide witnessing every moment through the live stream.
The Diocese of Hawai'i is blessed to have the Rev. Jennifer Briggs Latham as part of our 'ohana. Last summer, she and her family moved from Iowa to O'ahu, when her husband, Michael, became the President of Punahou School. They have two children, Miles and Anya. Prior to her ordination, Jennifer had been serving as a transitional deacon at St. Matthew's in Waimanalo.
Aloha & Congratulations Pastor Jenn!
The following is a reflection from the Rev. Jennifer Briggs Latham, on her journey to the priesthood:
My journey toward ordination seems like it started a long time ago, though it became most clear in 2013. I had been working at Fordham University in New York, and felt the call to move into work of a more spiritual and helping nature. After a long time of reflection, I ruled out social work, and started to consider what ministry I might be called to. I had worked for a church in the past and loved the pastoral work that went along with it. I had also worked in a retirement home and loved engaging with an older population. My initial thinking was to explore chaplaincy work. I enrolled in Education for Ministry (EfM) and really enjoyed the theological exploration that this program offered. During my third year of EfM, I entered the discernment process in the Diocese of Iowa, where we had moved a year earlier. I graduated from the low-residency MDiv program at Church Divinity School of the Pacific in May, and am looking forward to entering a year-long CPE residency through Pacific Health Ministry in September. I’m also excited to be part of a new ministry team at St. Matthew’s in Waimanalo
My family has been very supportive along the way. My husband, Mike, is an administrator at Punahou School, his alma mater. Our children, Miles and Anya have also been some of my greatest companions in the journey, too. Miles graduated from high school this spring and will attend Macalester College in St. Paul, MN this fall. Anya is going to be a sophomore at Punahou School.
The ordination in Grinnell, Iowa, was a very special and unique experience. I have been “attending” my seminary friends’ ordinations live streamed on YouTube and Facebook and every diocese has done things a little differently. Originally, we’d hoped to have the ordination outside, but as the time approached and we saw how warm it would be, we decided to have it in the church, limited to 10 people, with everyone staying physically distant and wearing masks. The only contact we had was when Bishop Scarfe laid hands on me for the consecration. I brought Hawaiian-made red masks with me to give to the 10 people who could be in the church during the ordination so that we all had something special to take away. For me and for the diocese it was important to model best practices for indoor worship since this was Bishop Scarfe’s first service since in-person worship stopped in March. This meant keeping enough physical space between each of us, not singing the hymns, each of us having our own plate and bread for communion, and wearing masks.
I’m looking forward to ministry in Hawai’i. One of the things that I feel called to in ministry is the role that local churches can play in caring for God’s creation within their communities. This is a very contextual thing, and since I’ve only lived in Hawai’i for a year, I will be looking to learn as much as I can from those who have lived here and been involved in this kind of work. I am also very excited about developing worship models for outside of the church’s walls, and finding ways to be involved in community building. As terrible as the COVID-19 virus has been, it has also exposed opportunities for us to be “church” that are beyond Sunday morning worship in the sanctuary.
S. Nishioka, Editor (Slideshow photos by W. Abrahamson and E Popplewell)