Conversation with a Seninarian - the Rev. Brandon Ashcraft
How have you enjoyed your time in Spain?
I’ve fallen in love with this country: its food, its history, its culture and most of all, its people! I spent most of my time in Madrid but was fortunate enough to see parts of Galicia, including Santiago, while accompanying Bishop Carlos and Canon Spencer on some church business. And when my boyfriend came to visit, we spent a week traveling through the region of Andalucía in the South, making stops in Sevilla, several of the white villages, Córdoba and Granada. I only wish I could have stayed in Spain longer. I still have much more to see and would love to keep improving my Spanish. I’ll be back!
What do you see as the value of establishing a summer supervised ministry in Madrid for Berkley seminarians?
I think there is tremendous value in any supervised ministry that offers Berkeley seminarians exposure to a different part of the Anglican Communion. And certainly, being able to learn and practice Spanish at the same time is particularly valuable. It was this combination that made the Madrid / Catedral del Redentor internship so compelling for me. I note with interest that the Rev. Canon Anthony Guillén, The Episcopal Church’s Hispanic Missioner, has said that half of the Episcopal clergy involved in Hispanic ministry today are Anglo and that their greatest concern is their lack of understanding of the Latino culture, spirituality and values. Many of the future leaders of The Episcopal Church that Berkeley is forming for ministry will need to have familiarity with the Spanish language and some exposure to Hispanic worshipping communities. An internship with the Spanish Episcopal Church in Madrid certainly offers them both of these things. I should note that one thing which surprised me was the large number of community members here at the cathedral who were from Central and South America – so the exposure to people from a broad and diverse spectrum of Spanish-speaking countries is also a benefit of spending time here.
What is your favorite new Spanish word?
I can’t possibly pick just one!
Vale is wonderful because it’s simple, versatile and only used in Spain. It essentially means “okay” and if you spend time in Spain, you’ll hear it everywhere you go!
Abanico is the Spanish word for a handheld fan. These decorated hand-held fans are ubiquitous in Spain, particularly during the summer. I’ll always associate this word with my internship at the Cathedral because the Bishop and Spencer took hundreds of them to The General Convention of The Episcopal Church in Austin emblazoned with the pilgrim shell (“concha”) that is emblematic of the Camino de Santiago, as part of an effort to raise awareness for the Cathedral’s Anglican Pilgrimage project in Santiago. And the Bishop would often use an abanico to remain cool under all his vestments during those hot summer services. The abanico is just so quintessentially Spanish!
What's been some of your most memorable experiences with us?
I was terrified to preach in Spanish for the first time but as I prepare to preach my third and final sermon in two days, I can say that I’ve come to delight in preaching in Spanish! The community here has been so supportive, kind and encouraging that I’ve had space to grow and be vulnerable as I speak imperfect Spanish and trust that the ministry of preaching is less about what I can do and more about what God can do with my offering. Also, the opportunity to travel to visit other parishes within the church has been particularly memorable. Chief among these memories is the trip I took to Galicia with the Bishop and Canon Spencer – a whirlwind tour through Lugo, A Coruña, Astorgua, culminating with a Eucharist at the cathedral in Santiago. Memories I won’t soon forget!
What are some of the differences for you between the American Episcopal Church and the Spanish Episcopal Church? Are there similarities?
There are some similarities, but for me, the differences have been the most striking. Before coming here, whether I realized it or not, my notion of what it meant to be “Anglican” was very much rooted in my experience of a very particular kind of Anglican liturgy. But there is very little that I recognized as “Anglican” in the liturgy here based on my own experiences. To be sure, the American Episcopal Church and the Spanish Episcopal Church share the four essential points of Anglican unity articulated in the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral, but what I’ve learned is that those four commonalities can exist and it does not mean that my experience of a church will “feel” Anglican to me. Clearly, my notion of what it meant to be “Anglican” was overly “Anglo,” given that most of my experiences of the Anglican Communion have been in the US and England. The discomfort and the striking lack of familiarity I experienced in the Spanish Episcopal Church was, in that sense, a very good thing, insofar as it helped me to understand that the Anglican Communion is diverse and encompasses a wide spectrum of liturgical styles and practices – something I previously knew to be true at an intellectual level, but now know to be true at an experiential level.
How has this experience impacted you and what will you take with you as you leave and return to your work in the United States?
I am leaving this experience with a greater command of the Spanish language than when I arrived that will undoubtedly serve me well in my future ministry. I have been inspired by my experience here to continue participating in the lives of Hispanic faith communities. Luckily for me, there is a Spanish-speaking Episcopal congregation in the Twin Cities, where I’ll be living, and I hope to build a relationship with this community when I return. Above all, I’m taking with me a great love for all things Spanish, a ton of great memories, and wonderful new friendships!