The Rev. Dr. Hilary Bogert-Winkler began work as the new Director of Pastoral Studies at Montreal Diocesan Theological College in July. Hilary is originally from Kentucky but has been working in the Diocese of Western Massachusetts for the past ten years, first as an associate priest and then as diocesan youth missioner. She has also just completed a Ph.D. at the University of Connecticut with a focus on church history and liturgy.
What drew you to Dio and to this position?
I was drawn to Dio because this work allows me to bring together my decade of experience in parish and diocesan ministry with my work teaching and writing in academia. When I visited Dio, I saw a lot of potential here for being creative about theological education—whether it’s in the classroom with students at the college or in the ways the college is interacting with the church at large. The college has a real commitment to making theological education accessible to as many people as possible, not just seminarians. I’m excited to be part of this work.
Why is theological education important for the church?
Perhaps it’s become a cliché by this point, but we are living in a time of tremendous transition for the church in our society. One of the things I often try to do in my preaching and teaching in churches is to get people to embrace our roles as evangelists. Theological education gives all of us the tools to think and pray about what our faith means to us, and then to take that out into the world. This is important not just for clergy, but for lay people as well. The laity are the most important ministers we have, and thus theological education must be for everyone.
What lessons do you take from your time in youth ministry for your work in theological education?
There are so many it’s hard to narrow it down! I think the most important one is not to be afraid to admit that I don’t know the answer. Working with youth has helped me hold on to the bravery needed to admit when I don’t know something, and to ask questions and find the answer. In other words, youth work has helped me hold on to my curiosity. In life, too, not knowing the answers to the big questions can be scary, especially as the mother of two small children. Working with youth reminds me constantly that uncertainty isn’t necessarily bad. Rather, it can bring with it an enormous potential for adventure, creativity, and joy. Working with youth has helped me see that figuring things out as we go along is a gift and an adventure, and not a burden.
Tell us about your research. What did you study in your doctorate? How is it important to the life of the church today?
My dissertation examines alternative liturgies that were written by those loyal to the Church of England under Cromwell’s rule. In 1645, the Book of Common Prayer was made illegal and was replaced by the Westminster Directory for the Publique Worship of God—a very different liturgical text. Several people loyal to the Prayer Book created new liturgies that formed a kind of liturgical protest against the political and theological realities of Interregnum England.
There are important connections between this project and our current life in the church. One of the beauties and pitfalls of Anglicanism is our attachment to tradition. It provides us with a very real connection to the saints who have gone before and those who will come after, but it can also cause us to put too much emphasis on an unchanging tradition—especially the Prayer Book. My project shows that the liturgy of the Prayer Book has always been a dynamic conversation between the realities of the moment and the treasures of our tradition.
The church is in the midst of significant change and transition. Where do you see the church heading?
I find this time in the church’s life to be incredibly exciting, inspiring, and challenging. Being Christian in our society today is a counter cultural identity. This can be difficult. And it means we have to ask hard questions about who we are. Would our communities notice if the church disappeared from our local context? If the answer is “no,” why not? It’s also a chance to try new and creative things. What are the needs of the church in our community? Where do people need to hear the message of Christ’s life-giving love for the world? How can we convey that message? I don’t think the answers are always going to be “by having a traditional, Sunday morning service” (though they might be), and I’m excited to see what kinds of new answers the Spirit helps us discover. In some ways I think this draws us closer to the apostles and the early church, and it will be important for us to see what lessons we can learn from them as we preach the Gospel in our own time.