Conversations with members of the Harvard and Radcliffe Class of 1992.
Hosted by Will Bachman.

Episode: 16

Bill Carroll, Episcopal Priest

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Show notes

The Rev. Dr. Bill Carroll has served as Rector (Senior Priest and Pastor) of Trinity Episcopal Church since April 2019. He was ordained to the priesthood in 2004 by Bishop Dorsey Henderson of the Diocese of Upper South Carolina. As a former seminary professor and college chaplain, he received his Master of Divinity and Ph.D. in Christian theology from the University of Chicago Divinity School and a certificate of Anglican Studies from the School of Theology of the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee.

Key points include:

  • 04:36: Shopping for a denomination
  • 07:17: The gay marriage debate
  • 17:55: The work week of an Episcopal priest
  • 20:09: Growing the membership of a congregation

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Bill Carroll, Will Bachman


Will Bachman  00:01

Hello, and welcome to the 90 T report conversations with members of the Harvard and Radcliffe class of 1992. I’m your host, will Bachman. And I’m here today with Bill Carroll who is an Episcopal priest. Bill. Welcome to the show.


Bill Carroll  00:16

Thanks. Well, I’m glad to be here.


Will Bachman  00:18

So I am so excited about this discussion bill, because I don’t I’ve never had a Episcopal priest on on this show or my other podcast before. And I really am interested to hear about your world. Maybe we could start by telling me a bit about your journey since you left college.


Bill Carroll  00:38

Well, by the end of college, I had gotten involved at the Memorial Church with Reverend gums and you know, several student leaders and was an usher there. But I had not grown up in the church. And so I got home and was sort of looking for a denomination to be baptized in. And Preston Hannibal, who was an Assistant Minister at the Memorial Church is an Episcopal priest. And so it was one of many churches that I looked at. And I ended up getting baptized back at my home, in San Diego, at the nearest Episcopal Church to where my parents live, and was there for about a year after college, but I was looking to go to graduate school. And I ended up at the University of Chicago Divinity School, and did my basic seminary degree there, but also ended up doing a PhD in Christian theology there. Which, you know, we were on the long plan, and it took, I think I finished the dissertation in 2005 and graduated. Okay. But I was there from 1993, all the way to 2005, although, you know, in the later stages, was actually with my wife, who is also a priest. And she, her first sort of parish job was in South Carolina. And so, and we were near, it’s the parish in Clemson, South Carolina, where Clemson University is, and our kids were born there, but it’s been kind of a wild ride. We’ve lived all over the country at this point. Okay,


Will Bachman  02:22

so I already have a lot of questions. So you said you were looking for a denomination to be baptized in were you not really like a big churchgoer? Before I


Bill Carroll  02:34

was, you know, my parents are nominally Christian. But growing up in Southern California church never seemed like something that one ought to do. I did go to a Presbyterian Church when I was about five years old, my best friend and his little sister died in a house fire. And someone invited my mom to church, but that lasted for maybe like a year or two at most. But we were basically secular family growing up whose parents had grown up, my parents both grew up in Kansas. And so they had grown up in church, but they weren’t going on Sunday morning. And I really didn’t get serious about church or anything until college and my roommate started going to Memorial Church and I went along with him, but I got very involved there. There’s daily morning prayer there, as well as Sunday services. And that’s kind of how I started to get involved.


Will Bachman  03:31

Okay. And I mean, Reverend Gomez is also such a great preacher. He really spoke I think, even to secular students, I think, I mean, I attended a lot of the services there. And it was just very nice, kind of peaceful hour with some reflective philosophy. And it’s great voice. So I was


Bill Carroll  03:55

I did admire his voice and and what he had to say, Yeah, I think he really cared deeply about students. He cared deeply about Harvard. And he is certainly meshed.


Will Bachman  04:07

So tell me about this kind of comparison shopping, if you will, but you did it at different denominations. That’s one thing that always Yeah, I mean, I was raised going to a Methodist church, but it was just sort of random. I think that my parents went to that one. Maybe it’s just the most convenient parking or something. But how sure, like, what were some of the differences between the different denominations and how did you do that? How did you make that selection?


Bill Carroll  04:36

Well, I I’m sure that I attended at least one Lutheran Church. A couple of Presbyterian churches, and a congregational church. And this is at my home in San Diego. I had gone back home after graduation, and was working as a tutor in an In an agency that specialized in working with students with learning differences, and so I was trying different churches out. And then when I walked into all souls Episcopal Church in San Diego, which is in Point Loma, which is the neighborhood I grew up in, from 1980 Onward anyway, which is nearest my parents home, I was living at home. I just fell in love with the beauty of the music, the beauty of the physical space at that particular church, and just, you know, among churches that come out of the Protestant Reformation, the Episcopal Church has preserved I think the most of the traditions of sort of medieval Catholicism in terms of how worship looks. And I fell in love with a certain way of worshipping God. And also, it was very important to me having come into the church to the Memorial Church, to find a church that was LGBTQ plus affirming. And so that particular congregation had been served by gay and lesbian clergy. And, but the Episcopal Church, especially, especially on the coasts in those days, I don’t think I realized that there was quite a bit of work to be done at that point. But I wanted to be someplace where the minister that I most identified with would be welcomed as parishioner. And so the churches that I tried, most of them sort of fell into that, that camp, it was on the west coast. But I don’t think I really realized until the consecration of Jeanne Robertson as bishop of New Hampshire, an openly gay man in a in a in a marriage may have been a civil partnership at the time. Just how much opposition there was within my own denomination.


Will Bachman  07:03

Let’s jump to that topic. You told me before we start recording that you were in Oklahoma, you know, while the kind of gay marriage debate was playing out within the church, talk to me about that a bit.


Bill Carroll  07:17

Sure. I, it had gotten to the point where the Episcopal Church was sort of diocese by diocese were organized. In a diocese, which sometimes is the whole state, sometimes it’s part of a state. And they’re coupled across state lines, but it’s a regional sort of organization. But there was an understanding that in some places, we were already blessing, same sex unions. And there was, there was, as as we read the actions of our general convention, which is our legislative body, some notion that churches that went ahead and did that were within sort of the common mind of the church. There’s a resolution, a general convention that said that in Oklahoma, as in my previous diocese, southern Ohio, the state actually had a constitutional amendment that made same sex marriage against the Constitution in the state. And that was only overturned when the Supreme Court acted. The Supreme Court of the United States, and that happened while I was serving in Oklahoma, but I had already worked on a committee in southern Ohio, to work through some of the the implications of same sex marriage. My my, my PhD is in Christian theology, and it has to do in some ways with this question how we interpret Scripture. So I had worked through and and had helped produce some of the documents that the Bishop of southern Ohio was saying, and I became chair of the bishop, that then Bishop of Oklahoma’s committee on same gender unions, with which at first was understood purely as a church service, which had no legal standing. And then that committee continued to exist. Once the Supreme Court had ruled, we quickly acted so that our clergy could could actually solemn Nyes marriages that were legally binding according to the laws of the state. And so that process and I was working with a great bitch, Bishop, Bishop, Ed, Ken yet and he was Bishop of Oklahoma at the time. And he had said when he was elected, that he didn’t think we had done our theological homework, but that he would act when the general convention of our church acted, and he was good to his word. We basically went And around the state, I think there were three open meetings in different parts of the state where people could come and express what was on their heart and on their mind. At the time, I was a pastor, Rector of a church in Shawnee, Oklahoma. And after we had worked through his policies, and what it would take to get his permission to go ahead and bless a same gender marriage, we were, I believe, there were two congregations that did it on the same day, and we were one of the first. And so we but we actually had to do some consultation. And he was very clear that he was just trying to keep the church together. But if we wanted to go forward, that we would have His blessing, but I had to listen to everybody. And including voices that might have been in opposition. And my congregation, there wasn’t any significant opposition. And so we just went right ahead and did it and everything seemed to go well. And then later on, we were in a place where we could actually do a legal marriage. And at the time, I know many states, it was difficult to get a license. I mean, the secular authorities in Oklahoma, many of them were quite opposed to what we were doing. But it went off without a hitch and the county clerk, issued the license. And I actually did marry two men, shortly after we had permission to do marriages as well. And what I really appreciated is the thoughtfulness of the people in my congregation, and in the other congregations that showed up with these feedback sessions, where people learn to live with differences, but also didn’t put up a roadblock to people that wanted to get married in our church. And I was able to minister to several couples that came to me either to bless a a partnership that was in the eyes of God, but not in the eyes of the state or in, I get an only one case was a legal marriage. But we were able to minister to their needs and offer them the most that the law would allow at the time. And it happened in relatively short order. And I don’t think we lost a single congregation, I think a lot of the fighting about that had happened over the consecration of an openly gay Bishop, which had happened several years before. But it really went very, very smoothly. And it taught me a lot about leading when temperatures can get hot, and what principled leadership can do. And feel good about the result for the people that we helped.


Will Bachman  12:59

How did you have a conversation with people that were members of the congregation who were, you know, people in good faith? Who who oppose gay marriage because of their beliefs? And, and, you know, and you hadn’t like known Reverend gums, and, you know, felt?


Bill Carroll  13:23

Right, and of course, he came out, I think, our junior year, right, right. Yeah, it was, I don’t think it was a closely guarded secret. Yeah. But it was a very public event, if I remember at the time,


Will Bachman  13:35

it was on the steps of mem church. Right and right. So it


Bill Carroll  13:39

was very much in my mind, you know, I think the first thing is that we had a process that was designed. So that voices that were in the minority, whether that minority was in favor of unions, or, or or a post, had to be sort of heard and reported to the bishop. And he, he could issue an opinion, you know, either you’re ready to go forward, you’re not ready to go forward, or I need more information to make up my mind. And again, he wasn’t trying to throw up any roadblocks. He was just trying to make sure that we had actually done the work of the community. But the process worked in such a way that the clergy initiated the process. So it was my job, at least in the congregation, I was serving to say, yes, we want to have this conversation. But the Go ahead,


Will Bachman  14:43

yeah. Please finish to finish the thought there.


Bill Carroll  14:48

Well, and but at the same time, the senior lay officer of the church and the Episcopal Church has called a senior warden and we have a essentially a board word that is called a vestry, the senior warden and I had to cooperate on designing the process by which we would receive both written feedback from anyone who wanted to give it. But also to have one or more sort of public meetings where people could give their feedback in person. And the written feedback was designed for people that felt like they were in the minority and wouldn’t speak up, but had something to say to get their thoughts down in writing. And the vestry his role was to sit down at the meetings and actually help to create the minutes. And then to approve, like our summary of what transpired in the meeting. And they were specifically charged, if there’s someone who’s in the minority, you have to make sure that their point of view is recorded so that we know that there are people that feel this other way, whatever that is. And so, you know, the conversation was very civil. Oklahoma, Shawnee is the home of Oklahoma Baptist University, which definitely was not in favor of this kind of thing. And some of our parishioners work there. And the most negative sort of opposition comment that I heard was, you know, one person said, Well, I’m not sure that that’s morally right. He said, But if we got people that remember this of this church that want you to marry them, I don’t see how you can say, No, that was about the most negative thing. And then there was another person who said, Well, I work for Oklahoma Baptist University. And my employers know that I go to church here, and it could endanger my job. But she said, You know, that’s actually one of the reasons I go to church here. So you know, I don’t I’m not opposed to you doing it, I just want you didn’t know that it could actually affect my livelihood. But I want you to go ahead. Those were like the two most negative comments. Now there may have been people that were more opposed, you know, but Bishop was clear. From day one. And I think this was this really spoke to some of his ability, that he wanted to be a pastor for everyone in Oklahoma, whether they agreed with it or not.


Will Bachman  17:34

Talk to me a bit about the job of being an Episcopal priest. I don’t have much of a sense of it, I could I could make a guess. It’s what some of the things that are. But, you know, there’s obviously, you know, Sunday, you’ve got, you’ve got, you know, you’re you’re there preaching and writing services, what is the rest of the week like?


Bill Carroll  17:55

Well, it’s everything from you know, crafting a budget. It’s, in some ways, it’s like running a small business, and some of our congregations are, are larger than others. But there’s a lot of managing of staff, and also managing of relationships. There’s a lot of hospital visits, you know, my current parish, we have a school that is pre K through 12. And sir, sort of during, during COVID pandemic, especially at the early stages, we went from complete lockdown, to decisions about mask policies, to decisions about social distancing, about distance learning, and sort of being involved as chair of a board of trustees in an area in the country where those policies aren’t always received well. But, but navigating those relationships and figuring out like, do we play fall sports, you know, we had to cancel a season of football. And while our school is small football is still a really big deal in Texas. And it wasn’t necessarily a popular decision, but we’ve made that decision. You know, debates about, you know, what’s in the church budget, which direction do we go? churches often have a great deal of anxiety these days, because religious participation is declining in America, almost across the board. And so how do you have a model where you’re actually meeting people’s religious needs, and also creating a viable business model to actually keep existing as an institution?


Will Bachman  19:51

Yeah. You made the comparison to being a small business. What’s the what’s the equivalent of the kind of the marketing and sales side for you in turn? terms of getting the word out, you know, trying to build the congregation and grow the membership. What what, tell me about that aspect of the role,


Bill Carroll  20:09

I believe the fundamental thing that helps a church to get the word out is word of mouth. Now, a congregation of any size is going to probably have some kind of marketing strategy, and some kind of marketing budget. But in reality, I don’t do a lot of paid advertising. What brings people to us is if we have a good reputation in the community. And so there are things like for example, there is a major Alcoholics Anonymous meeting in this town that used to meet in another congregations space. And that congregation ran out of space, because they’re, they have some ministries that they needed to put there. Well, we worked to get them to move to our building. And this is a this is a 12 step meeting that happens twice a day, seven days a week. And so they basically needed to take over a significant portion of the basement of one of our buildings. I don’t believe that many, if any of the people that attend those meetings, actually will ever come to a service at Trinity where I am. But I do know that there are a lot of people who are experiencing recovery and new life in those meetings that are around in the community and their families and their friends that know that we found a space for their a meeting as they came out of COVID restrictions and were able to meet in person. And that increases our reputation in the community being involved with local nonprofits, being involved in making a difference for people who are hungry, people who are homeless. Being involved over at our school, we have a very diverse school. It is overwhelmingly Christian, because we are in northeast Texas, and most of the people are, but it is also it is a religious school. It is a Christian school, but it’s a non sectarian School, where people of other faiths or have no particular faith are welcome. And it is also intentionally affirming of sort of differences in sexual orientation and gender identity, at least at the official level. Right. I can’t speak for what individual people do. But in terms of the corporate ethos of the place, it has an Episcopal identity. And when when our governor recently issued his executive order, asking people to turn in parents that were doing gender affirming care for trans youth, all of our bishops came out against that. And in fact that that the that the national level or at the at the Episcopal Church level, we include churches and other countries. The House of Bishops unanimously said that that kind of legislation or executive action was inappropriate, and that we were opposed to it. So we’re not going to turn in our parents for for doing what’s right for their children. And so that and that was unanimous. And that’s including bishops that may have second thoughts about same gender unions or about transgender people in general, but are still standing up for basic human decency and treating people right. And most of our bishops are probably 100% on board. But it’s nice to have that kind of identity. And to be able to be a school that really welcomes all people to be a Christian school, where we don’t interfere with the science curriculum, where we teach the theory of evolution just like any good public school would. Where, you know, we’re not concerned about kids reading Harry Potter. In fact, there’s a there’s a young she’s not young anymore, but there’s a woman like three years behind us in school at Harvard, who is an Episcopal priest in I believe the Diocese of Washington who wrote a Sunday school curriculum based on Harry Potter and so so we’re able I think, to be very affirming of culture, and academic pursuit and intellect. Now obviously, there are people that don’t view religion as as a potable enterprise, but Episcopalians are pretty good at maintaining good relationships with those folks too. And we have, we have a real faith and a very traditional religion. But we’ve also proven ourselves to be open to changing when the best evidence requires it. And not always, not always without a fight. But I think the participation of, of lay people in every aspect of our churches, government, as well as our clergy, we are an institution that is capable of evolving with the times. And so that’s been a it’s been an interesting journey, to be part of that. And I think I said to you before we got started recording, you know, I don’t think I was aware, when I first became an Episcopalian that there were significant pockets of resistance to sort of same gender unions, to gay clergy to transgender persons. There certainly are. And I’ve served in the deep, deep South, where that’s a very controversial thing. But I’ve also seen heroic leadership help congregations and dioceses move forward, often out of a sense of obligation to one another that comes right out of our Christian faith. It’s not as if Christian faith doesn’t have to be one thing, it can be many, many things. And the example of Jesus really does imply that our hearts should be open to absolutely everyone, and that we should be willing to listen and learn and repent of some of the violence that Christians have often done to other people.


Will Bachman  26:51

What is something that an Episcopal priest understands about the way the world works, that no smart, educated member of our class, who hasn’t followed that profession does not necessarily know. So what


Bill Carroll  27:11

most of what I know is probably known in other professions, a lot of what I know about leading communities, and certainly Episcopal clergy, of a certain generation, my generation, were raised on work and family systems theory by a by a Jewish rabbi by the name of Edward Noah, Edwin Friedman was a student of what’s called Bowen theory. And you know, it’s it’s it’s a therapeutic model. But Friedman believes that the clergy of any denomination or any persuasion, have a unique position within within family systems, because we’re often involved with families over several generations. And so I think the wisdom of the Episcopal Church at its best is about bringing people together that don’t necessarily agree to have a real conversation, where we can disagree, and maybe in some cases eventually have to take a vote. But where we avoid some of the polarizing rhetoric, that is everywhere, right now. Now, at the same time, there are times where we have to say a hard no to something. So like requiring parents to turn over to be like teachers to turn over parents for getting their kids the gender affirming care that they need. We set up hard no to that. You know, we’ve been against capital punishment for 100 years. We have members that are in favor of it. But we bear witness to that. You know, I’m currently serving on a board of a foundation that our diocese created when we sold a hospital system in Houston, and it has, it has big assets. I mean, this is the sale of an entire hospital. And one of the things that we’ve gotten involved in is advocacy for Medicaid expansion. Texas is one of very few states that did not take advantage of the Affordable Care Act. And we are one of the most poorly insured states in the country in terms of health insurance, and there are lots of people that if we expanded Medicaid could get coverage that don’t have coverage. Well, we’ve taken a stand in favor waiver of that, and we do a lot of evidence based work to sort of support that it’s a position that we believe comes directly out of our faith. I’m sure there are Episcopalians in Texas and elsewhere that don’t agree with that stand. But it’s something that our general convention has affirmed as a consequence of our faith. And so I think Episcopalians are good at having the conversation, allowing people to dissent from church teaching. And working through a semi democratic process to come up with what church teaching is. I believe this is actually how our constitutional system is supposed to work in theory. But it doesn’t work that way anymore. And it should be a place where people can can air their differences, and then eventually you come to a vote, and then you have policy. The doesn’t work that way anymore. And so we want to stand I think, for a big tent, realizing that there are voices that want to tear the tent down. But still we want, we want there to be a diverse policy discussion, even within the church. while still staying committed to principles, that means something. And it’s difficult work because people sometimes assume that if you take a stand, that means you don’t want relationship. I think you know, the other voice that’s taught me a lot about pastoral leadership. And also, how to lead a diverse community is Brene. Brown, who is a member of the Episcopal Diocese of Texas. And she’s a very popular author on leadership. And but she is both working with research, but also has expressed several times publicly a growing Christian faith. You know, but we’re open to taking the research where it leads, and not. I hope we avoid special pleading, as we engage in the public square, I mean, in America, people do have a right to engage with their government. And we do hopefully, we are very actively engaged citizens in one way or another. And it’s not just electoral politics, it’s all kinds of politics. It has to do with changing the direction of the debate. Hopefully, we come to a point where we have a BB bipartisan consensus on things that everyone should be in favor of. But we are, you know, I think we’re open to really caring about why someone thinks that way. And, you know, I have a congregation with lots of people that are all over the map. And it’s my job to say something that is not just taking the path of least resistance. But it’s actually encouraging people to grow closer to who Jesus Christ was and is while still encouraging responsible participation in our democracy. And that’s the genius of our church at its best. I think a lot of mainline churches, certainly, some of angelical churches as well are committed to a vision of pluralistic democracy. And if they aren’t, they should be.


Will Bachman  33:43

Let’s turn back to your college days. You already talked about, you know, attending Memorial Church and how important Reverend gums was to you. Were there any other courses or faculty members that you had in college that have really continued to resonate with you over the course of your career?


Bill Carroll  34:04

Yeah, I was a philosophy major. And my main interest in philosophy was political theory. And it’s odd, three different well for really, Tim Scanlon, who must be emeritus by now. John Rawls, Robert Nozick. And then oddly in the government department, Harvey Mansfield. We’re all formative professors for me. And so it’s odd. I like the major sort of, sort of theorist of sort of welfare state liberalism, major libertarian, and then kind of a straussian sort of conservative, you know, all so so sorry. At least political theory professors. Also, I just love the philosophy department in general. Outside that department, there was a while that I was thinking about being pre med. So I took quite a few science courses and, and math courses didn’t go that direction. In high school, I probably was much more of a math and science person than a humanities person. But I liked having a diverse set of disciplines that challenged me to think in new ways. And I enjoyed the core. I don’t know what’s become the core, but I enjoyed that. And maybe as an institution, it wasn’t always up to everything. It certainly may not have been multicultural enough. But the core courses that I took at least got me out of my own concentration.


Will Bachman  35:56

Yeah, I had, I had great core courses. And I mean, pretty multicultural. I formed industrial East Asia, of course, on jazz.


Bill Carroll  36:11

And it prepared me for an ongoing life of the mind. And of course, I went to the University of Chicago, which is kind of, you know, it’s kind of a humanity nerd stream, and really enjoyed being able to study outside the Divinity School. But, you know, my main interests have always been philosophy. But my dissertation has to do with sort of the relationship between the church and secular culture, explored through a medieval topic about the history of biblical exegesis. And so but so in a sense, any discipline can be relevant. And nowadays, I’m reading a lot of history, and sort of cultural theory, some anthropology, I’m sort of working on a long range book project on Well, I’m applying sort of some German post-holocaust theologies, to figuring out how the church can work toward dismantling and overcoming systemic racism. So to think about America, as a as a country with a history of trauma, and kind of a colonial colonist mindset that involves oppression of a significant number of citizens, and, and historically non citizens, to think about slavery, to think about Jim Crow, think about contemporary issues around the black freedom struggle, and how I, as a white ally, can, can work to sort of create church institutions that are part of the answer rather than part of the problem. That’s a big long term thing that grows out of my early work on Christ and culture. But so, but I’m, I’ve got a lifelong kind of intellectual journey. And I think Harvard provided some of the seeds for that. And also, you know, I mentioned those, those formative philosophy, professors, people that are arguing different sides of important questions. I’ve certainly got my own preferences. And I’ve certainly am serving in a church that is aligned, you know, in the direction of respecting human dignity, and freedom and justice and peace. Those are big priorities for us. I also serve in a church with an African American Presiding Bishop, who has, has powerful roots in the civil rights movement. But who is one of our top three mission priorities as a church is anti racism. So racial justice and reconciliation is something that at a national level, certainly we’re starting to really wrestle with. Our church recently endorsed a project. It’s an oral history project, leading to a documentary on there was racial violence, including a lynching. And apparently martial law was declared here in Longview as part of the red summer of 1919. And there’s a wave of sort of, like white supremacist backlash against growing sort of freedom returning soldiers was part of it. But it was a very controversial vote on my vest. Right, there were people that didn’t want to dig up some of these records. But eventually, we got to a anonymous vote of our vestry to support a grant from our diocese for this ecumenical coalition of people that wanted to produce this documentary, and tell the story of what happened in Longview now 100 years ago. And so that’s also something in an era where people are arguing that we need to not teach history in schools, where we need to sanitize history or in some cases, adopt kind of an ideological history, that doesn’t tell the full story, we can be part of uncovering local history that is still relevant. And, you know, we live in, you know, so it’s just, it’s, it’s sort of interesting what you get involved in, I would have never thought that huge chapters of my ministry would have had to do with sexual ethics. And same gender unions. And fact I kind of knew what I thought and I joined the Episcopal Church thinking that it was already a settled question. And little did I know how unsettled it was. So you know, probably a couple, certainly a decade of that. And now sort of leading a congregation through having what for those of us who are all right, those of us who are European, in our background, and who have white privilege are often some very difficult and threatening conversations to have not shying away from having the conversation, but also giving people space to kind of move and change within that conversation. And I think a humanistic education can still be very valuable for that purpose. You know, and I know that humanities departments are often kind of targets in budget wars and universities these days. I really worry about not having it. I mean, I’m certainly all for the social sciences and the hard sciences, natural sciences. But how do we train people that can reflect with a community and lead it through a process of change?


Will Bachman  42:31

Talk to me a bit about what it’s like being married to a fellow member of the clergy, and where is your wife working in the same same church as you right now or she, she off? No, running your own church or whatever, there


Bill Carroll  42:46

are congregations and Longview. And we are fortunate that she is the priest in charge of the other one, which is St. Michael and all angels. And we collaborate right now we’re actually working on a ministry to house homeless families in a transitional shelter, and we’re redesigning a building on her on her campus for that purpose, and we’re moving our offices over there. So the two congregations collaborate. What’s interesting about it for us until very recently, our 20 year old son who has significant developmental disabilities, he has both autism, severe autism, he’s pretty nonverbal, and also down syndrome was living at home. And caregiving wasn’t an enormous amount of time for us. He is now in a group home in Tyler, which is a nearby town. And it has freed up a lot of time for us to kind of, we can collaborate in new ways. But we often we joke that we have the same job title more or less, and the same job on paper, but we go about it in completely different ways. She is not interested in in the academic side of ministry to the degree that I am. She certainly does what she needs to in order to be an effective minister and to preach and to teach and all that. But she would have never done a graduate degree beyond her basic seminary training. She’s a natural pastor. She was a hospital corpsman in the Navy, and enlisted in the United States Navy when she was 17 and completed her degree much, much later in life. In fact, she she’s a little older than I am and she graduated at the same time that I did. So we’re very different people. But our whole Our whole ministry has been kind of helping congregations find new vitality, and leave them better than we found them. That’s the goal. Anyway, whether we did so or not is kind of not for us to say. But I’ve served three congregations as rector, which is sort of the senior pastor of an Episcopal congregation, often I won’t, I haven’t had any assisting clergy. I have an assistant right now. But in terms of our life together, we often don’t talk about church at home all that much. Certainly, if we’ve had a hard day, we might discuss kind of what’s going on in our life, like any couple would, until very recently, our son was almost nonstop work when we were at home. So we were always on duty, and that wasn’t very good. But we’re kind of coming out of that into a new place where we have some time for each other. And kind of getting our house back into shape now that, you know, now that he’s not there, but we’re also visiting him in a neighboring town, that’s about 45 minutes away twice a week, and enjoying time with him. We, you know, we inhabit the same space, but we don’t necessarily talk about it a lot. But we do understand, I think at a deep level, what it’s like to be in a profession that used to be a fairly safe, easy living, but has become increasingly entrepreneurial, as you have to kind of be on a missionary footing all the time and help the church to reconstitute itself. And, you know, it’s exciting. But if you’re not, if you’re not wired for it, it could be a miserable existence.


Will Bachman  47:02

So, you know, see a little bit more about how can taking care of your son has affected your your ministry and your relationship with parishioners and the church.


Bill Carroll  47:19

I think what it’s given me first of all, he’s, he’s a wonderful kid. And so like any child, we love him, and he is in many ways, my best friend, even though he doesn’t talk very much. He’s very affectionate. And he does have words, but he only uses one or two of them at a time and only for his basic needs. I think what has taught me is what a struggle, everyone’s got something. You know, I’ve become convinced that we all have something that needs care. And so I think, if anything, it’s made me more compassionate. Especially when someone is giving me difficulty. It’s probably not about me. It’s probably about something else in their life that is unresolved. And it doesn’t mean that I let them like abused me or push me around in certain ways. I’m pretty good at pushing back if I need to. But it makes me curious. About like, how are they hurting? And from a Christian point of view, Christ, certainly from the point of view of my own church, Christ is everywhere. This is a New Testament conviction that when you are ministering to anyone, the least of these in particular, but it’s surprising to me even people that look like they have it all together. Don’t. And I wish I could tell my 18 year old self that arrived at Harvard and was over awed by all our wonderful classmates, right? That everyone has something they’re carrying around and they may not have even figured it out yet. But how can you be compassionate and, and that back to Brene? Brown, I mean, show up for them. She has this whole thing about people are hard to hate up close, you know, to get close to people. A whole chapter one of her books, braving the wilderness about holding hands with strangers and getting to know them. I think that my faith and my journey from early days at Memorial Church to now has been about learning that I am enough. You know, I have a friend who went to a different Ivy League school who always says that your two options are CEO organic farmer, right. And I’m certainly on the organic farmer end of the spectrum, incense, but I have been in charge of a lot of things too. I mean, I have lots of experience, and I’ve managed things. And I’ve, you know, I sit on boards that manage large portfolios and that kind of thing. But the other side of it is, it’s okay to just do what you feel called to do. And at the end of the day, what matters to me is, am I a good neighbor? Am I a good follower of Jesus? Am I honest about my shortcomings? Am I willing to change my mind? Can I collaborate with people who don’t think the way I do? And if we all kind of bring our own uniqueness to those kinds of tasks, and I’m sure there are others, I think our little corner of the world and for some of us in our class, I’m sure it’s a very big corner of the world. But it will be a better place. If we can bring compassion to it.


Will Bachman  51:27

It’s a beautifully said, Bill for any classmates, or other listeners that wanted to follow up with you and find out what you’re doing. Do you want to share any websites or any other online places?


Bill Carroll  51:41

My website is www dot Trinity And my contact information is on there and I welcome conversation with anybody.


Will Bachman  51:57

Fantastic. We will include that link in the show notes. And listeners, if you go to 92, you can sign up for a weekly email, get notified of all the new episodes. And if you want to help other listeners to see over the show, a five star review on iTunes will help accomplish that. Bill, thank you so much for joining. I’m so inspired by this conversation. It’s it’s really wonderful, the work that you’ve done.


Bill Carroll  52:27

Thank you Well, and thank you for hosting this podcast. I think it’s a great idea.