Andrew D'Angio White '06
What is your current job?
I am a priest in the Episcopal Church, currently serving as Rector (head pastor) of three churches in Western New York, about 40 minutes east of Rochester.
Why did you choose this profession?
Being a part of a Christian community and walking through life in the rhythms of the Episcopal Church have always been very important to me. During college, I discerned a call to ordained leadership in the church. I wanted to serve God and God's people as a priest, leading communities through both major transitional moments and day-to-day opportunities of encountering the divine. Now I get to do that for money and it is awesome!
What more do you wish to accomplish in your professional career?
I spent a large portion of my life in the suburbs, so the joys and challenges of the three rural churches I now serve are new to me. They are all small, but I am constantly surprised by the ways God is working in these communities. Some of the most powerful ministry I have witnessed has happened when people have stopped worrying about numbers and just thrown themselves into what God is calling them to do. As religious affiliation in the US continues to decline, I believe the Church in general (and the Episcopal Church in particular) is facing a unique challenge: to listen ever more intently to what God is up to outside of our buildings, and to join in in meaningful ways. Specifically, I hope to help these churches find their particular calling - the place where their deep gladness meets the world's deep hunger, to paraphrase Frederick Buechner. Small churches can be incredibly vital centers of faith and service, especially as they live into their smallness, and focus on the ways in which they can serve, rather than the obstacles that face them. One of them has a semi-monthly dinner offered free of charge to anyone in the community; another has a "Baby Closet" that helps parents with often expensive items for young children; another has a program that offers walkers, canes, and wheelchairs to older or disabled neighbors. In a larger church, these ministries might be one among many; in smaller churches they can become the focus of outreach as we pair our gifts with the needs of the community.
Tell us about a decision or change you made that turned out to be a positive career move.
My wife is also an Episcopal priest; when she graduated from seminary a year after I did, we were both seeking places to serve. I heard about a job in the Rochester area (where my wife grew up) serving three small rural churches and immediately thought "That's crazy!" After a number of helpful conversations and a lot of prayer, this position seemed less crazy and more interesting and exciting. The turning point was a discussion with a mentor of mine, a priest who has herself served in some nontraditional contexts. She heard about the position and immediately saw the possibilities rather than the challenges. Her excitement was infectious, and I ended up accepting the call.
Churches are finding themselves with dwindling financial resources. Because of this, partnership ministries such as the one I serve will become more common; so from the perspective of my career, this has been a positive move. In some ways, I am preparing myself for the realities of the future of the Episcopal Church. More importantly, this position has opened my eyes to the joys and the challenges of serving rural communities. Poverty and economic disparity take different forms in a rural setting; the Church finds itself in conversations with different groups here than it does in a city. I am growing in my understanding of how the church may live out and participate in God's mission in the world, which has been vital not only to my career but to my formation as a Christian and a priest.
How has Haverford influenced your professional career?
One of the reasons I chose Haverford to begin with was the incredible sense of community I found there. The ideals of trust, concern, and respect that pervade campus life have powerfully informed my ministry and the way I understand Christian community. Rather than creating a safe haven from a broken world, real community empowers us to engage authentically with the world. A community of people who care for one another and hold one another accountable challenges its members to live fully into their mission and values. That kind of support in risk-taking and honest discussion about communal life is in the background of any vision I have for a community.
Another way that Haverford influenced my faith development was a global perspective. The College’s focus on social justice on the local, national, and international levels resonates powerfully with the message of the Gospel. Christians are called not only to be caring individuals, but to work to change unjust systems so that all God’s children can share in the abundance of creation. In my current context, I’m hoping to find ways the churches I serve can partner with organizations working for the benefit of the migrant farmworkers in our area, on whom much of our livelihood depends.