“So that’s the short version of it,” Noah Lawson tells me. We’re tucked into a cozy corner of the Cloister, looking out on a bright spring morning in Nashotah’s wooded campus. In just a few winding sentences, Noah has distilled the last few decades of his life into a SparkNotes version of God’s call on him to holy orders. From youth ministry and mission trips to the basic behind the scenes work of running a parish, for years Noah’s been looking for ways to serve. It runs in his family. His Father is a priest, and that same call now rings in his ears. This is why he’s been working so hard at Nashotah House: to prepare for ministry in God’s Kingdom. And now he’s about to set sail.
On March 9th, Nashotah House Junior Noah Lawson was commissioned as an ensign in the United States Navy and officially entered the Navy Chaplain Candidate Program. Dozens of friends, priests, and faculty packed into the tiny Red Chapel behind the cloister to join in worship and to witness his “signing.” It was a powerful and moving service. We lifted up our voices in harmony, belting out the classic sailor hymn “Eternal Father: Strong to Save.” And once the semester’s over, Noah is going to hightail it out of the north woods of Wisconsin, and hit the High Seas.
“God has given me a desire to provide the outward and visible sign of the sacrament of penance and reconciliation so that people like these can find peace,” Noah says.
He was motivated to apply for the program because of early and formative ministry experiences that helped him to discern a call to ordained ministry in the Anglican Church. From counseling and confession, to the moral support and the Sacraments, Marines and Coast Guardsmen have faith needs that must be met. And Noah wants to help meet those needs. Whether conducting worship ceremonies on a ship at sea or assisting clergy with religious activities at the home base, Navy Chaplains can bring Christ into peoples’ lives in new and exciting ways. They get in the spiritual line of fire, as it were, seeking to bless and to heal wherever there is a need.
Noah believes his preparation for the priesthood here at Nashotah House Theological Seminary has been preparing him to serve: “The structure, focus on spiritual and priestly formation, and rigorous orthodox theological preparation,” he says, “are all helping to outfit me with the necessary tools to effectively minister to the needs of our military and our broken world.” Bon voyage, Noah. And may it be so.