Man’s 25-year detour from priesthood nears an end

Published November 1, 2005

Rev. Jim Holland of Victoria is supported in his quest for ordination to the Anglican priesthood by his family, including (from left) son Theo, wife Selinde, and son Isaac.


Jim Holland will not be ordained an Anglican priest till February but already he is feeling the effects – all of them good – of returning to the path he first embarked on when he was 14 but abandoned when he was 25. At that point he was already a deacon – in the Roman Catholic church – and had spent a couple of summers in rectory life.

“It feels like it was a big detour,” said the 50-year-old former publisher of a parenting magazine and business leader. Looking back on his series of career moves, he realizes that he was always looking for something he was not getting. When he decided to pursue the priesthood again, this time as a married father of two, “something clicked into place.”

Not that Mr. Holland has any regrets about the road not taken until now. For one thing, he figures he might well have been burnt out of the priesthood by now if he had spent the last 25 years at it. For another, the detour let him marry his sweetheart, Selinde Krayenhoff, and raise two sons with her, all of whom were on hand, applauding gustily at his restoration to the diaconate at a July service at St. John the Divine Anglican church.

It was during a two-year stint heading Victoria’s Better Business Bureau that he began thinking about the priesthood again. He and his wife were increasingly unhappy in the Catholic church and speculating on where they might feel more at home. “I thought of Anglicanism and the next thought that came into my head was, if I’m an Anglican, I can be a priest.” The more he thought about it, the better it felt – like he had been a fish swimming upstream for years and had finally turned to ride the current.

The Anglican church made him feel immediately welcome, though it took the local diocese of British Columbia a while to determine how to handle him. “At first we thought I should go to the Vancouver School of Theology for Anglican studies, and I would like to do that some day,” said Mr. Holland.

Eventually a much less structured process of integration was worked out, involving reading assignments and informal talks with current Bishop James Cowan and John Hannen, the retired bishop of Caledonia, and a stint understudying Harold Munn, rector of Victoria’s St. John the Divine church.

“I don’t feel like I am leaving the (Roman) Catholic church behind. I am expanding my experience of the church,” said Mr. Holland. He is happy with the greater degree of lay participation in the Anglican church and with the importance it ascribes to Holy Communion and the sacramental and liturgical role of the priest. “The eucharist is central to my understanding of the priesthood.”

Nor did it give Mr. Holland pause that the Canadian Anglican church is marked by strong divisions on moral issues. “Same-sex marriage is not an artificial issue. It’s a function of social evolution going on in Canada and elsewhere. It’s a very good thing that it is being discussed openly.” However, he does express regret that same-sex marriage looms so large for some people that they would make it a litmus test for the faithfulness of the church.

After he and Selinde married, they moved to California to start a magazine, Creation, for Roman Catholic mystic Matthew Fox (lately an Anglican convert himself). The family moved to Victoria in 1988 and threw themselves quickly back into publishing, working 14-hour days to establish Island Parent.

They sold it in 2000, and Holland went to the Better Business Bureau. In 2002 he won a position on the Greater Victoria school board, of which he is now vice chair. He later served an interim chair of the Chamber of Commerce while doing mediation on the side.

Now he feels like he has come home: “I feel integrated, like I am more open to people, more connected to people. I am more honest about who I am.” People used to nod off, he jokes, whenever he would launch into a discourse on his favourite topics of theology or spirituality. But his decision to become a priest has brought a completely different response. “People have opened up to me about their own spiritual journeys. I am connecting with people on a much deeper level.”

His family, including his siblings and his father, have all supported his move. His only regret is that his mother did not live to see his ordination. “When I told her I was not going to be priest 25 years ago, she said, ‘Well you know, you could be an Episcopalian priest.'”

Steve Weatherbe is a writer based in Victoria.


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