Episcopal Welcomes the 2023-24 Theologian-In-Residence

In the small town of Prosser, Wash., faith was more than a personal belief; it was a cherished family legacy for The Rt. Rev. Brian Prior. As a sixth-generation Episcopalian, Prior’s religion guides his role as a leader of diverse organizations. Episcopal’s 2023-24 Theologian-in-Residence brought a wealth of experience, having served as a Bishop in the Episcopal Church, vice chair of the Episcopal Church Pension Board, and chair of the Episcopal Camp and Conference Center’s Visionary Council. With an impressive background that includes starting two education and recreational non-profits, Rev. Prior holds a master’s and doctorate from the Church Divinity School of the Pacific. He is also a board member of the Absalom Jones Center for Racial Healing and the HUB Sports Center..

Throughout his week at Episcopal, Prior preached an inspiring sermon in Vespers, taught several classes, and engaged in meaningful programming with students. “My experience at Episcopal was extremely positive. I found the community to be warm and inviting, the students to be inquisitive and engaging, and the overall culture to have a strong sense of community,” he said. The reverend was also impressed with the closeness of the Episcopal community: “The cultivation of a strong sense of identity, respect, and reconciliation are all lived out here. These people are more than classmates and teachers — they are friends and neighbors.”

During the annual welcome dinner in Bryan Library, Prior candidly answered questions about students’ faith. He encouraged them to find solace in “the struggle,” and to acknowledge that “the struggle” allows for inquiry, wonder, and imagination. He also touched on his personal experiences in grappling with faith and reconciliation. “There’s actually a huge blessing in the midst of messiness for learning and growth. I’ve tried to empower students to turn those struggles and challenges into curiosity and inquiry.”

In his introduction to the community, Prior highlighted three fundamental principles of every individual’s faith. “We are uniquely created, uniquely gifted, and these gifts are not solely for our own benefit,” he told the audience in Callaway Chapel. “Gifts from God are meant to enrich the world around us. At Episcopal, students have a strong sense of that. You are exercising your voice, your gifts, and many of you have great aspirations about how you will impact the world.”

Drawing from his experience as a former girls’ basketball coach, Prior incorporated a basketball to open his Vespers homily at the end of his time on The Holy Hill. Reflecting on his team losing the state championship game by one point, he conveyed to students the emotions of joy and anguish in being a part of a team. He identified three elements that define being on a team but also resonate with life. “Order: a time in our lives when things are going well; disorder: when things go wrong, or there’s chaos; and reorder: the place where we can live with fullness.” By the end of his sermon, Prior offered students advice on navigating life’s ups and downs as they journey from disorder to reorder. 

Episcopal’s Assistant Chaplain Rev. Richmond Jones expressed heartfelt gratitude to Prior for his guidance in navigating his faith journey, “When I met Bishop Prior in high school, I had the feeling he was someone who modeled being intentional about how you approach the world,” Jones said. “He was one of the first people to give me the courage to pursue a call to ministry. His kind words and recognition of my gifts took what seemed risky and uncertain and made it tangible and admirable. At each junction in my life, he has been a trusted friend and mentor who is guaranteed to have wisdom in spades.”