Author and photographer Karen Walrond interviews the Reverend Sarah T. Condon for Quiet Revolution about simultaneously being an introvert and an Episcopal priest. As a teenager, Condon discovered the possibility of Episcopal priesthood:
I started to articulate that this was what I was going to do probably around the age of 10. And then, I wasn’t really sure what that path would look like for me, but as seniors in high school, we were asked to do these projects that tied something that we were interested in the world with a passion that we had. And I had a teacher who went to church with me, and she said, “You know, you should do something about the church!” And so I found a mentor at the Episcopal cathedral downtown and said that I wanted to do a project about women in the Episcopal priesthood. And unbeknownst to me, instead of giving me history books about that, he gave me books about discernment for ordained ministry—in other words, to start me praying about and thinking about ordained ministry. I was 18 at the time.
Condon started her undergraduate studies deep in the south, at the Center for Southern Culture at Ole Miss in Oxford:
KW: That’s interesting because I think if you think of a Christian faith in the south, Episcopalian is not what you would think of! I feel like—maybe I’m wrong—I feel like when you start talking about religion, particularly with the Civil Rights movement, you think of the Baptist Church, and maybe AME Churches, more than the Episcopal faith.
SC: Well, for example, in the history of the town of Oxford, which is where Ole Miss is, there were massive student riots that happened when we had our first black student attend Ole Miss. It was really violent, down in the town square, and history tells us that it wasn’t actually all students: there were a lot of people from town involved as well. And the Episcopal priest of St. Peter’s walked out among the people who were throwing glass, and among gunfire and extreme violence, and pointed at people and called them by their first names—because remember, Oxford is not a big town—and said, “You need to go home.” And so, while we might not look at Southern Studies and think “the Episcopal church,” for me, there were things I learned in the department that made me think, “That’s where I want to find myself. That is something I would be honored to be a part of.”
After Ole Miss and discernment, Condon went to Yale Divinity. Today, she is assistant for pastoral care at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Houston, Texas, where she lives with her husband and two children. An introvert, she is also a frequent public speaker. She sees introversion as part of being Christian, and love as the connecting thread:
You know, I only think being an introvert hinders me if it’s been a really long day of interacting with people and I know that there’s even more interaction that’s going to happen later. But I actually don’t know how people function in terms of leading churches, but also simply being Christian, without having some sort of “introverted” time. I think that part of being Christian means that we are called to step away, you know?
We see that in Scripture, where Jesus sort of steps away and takes a beat and prays, and I think that that’s crucial to us connecting with God and connecting with what God’s purpose is in our lives…what God’s—I hate the word “purpose”—intention is for us. Because I think when we just keep charging ahead, and we keep talking, and we keep being loud and “out there,” I think it becomes about us in those moments. It becomes about our own agenda because we’re not stopping and saying, “Lord, what would you have me do?” If we’re not stopping and reflecting on that passage, “We love because He first loved us”—not because it was our idea and we kept charging ahead and articulating and explaining—but because we take a minute and we remember it all starts and begins again with God and not with our own human flawed bravado.