Nancy Bryan, a 2003 graduate of Bexley Hall, is the new editorial director for books and music at Church Publishing, Inc., the official publisher of worship materials and resources for the Episcopal Church that is also a multi-faceted publisher and supplier to the broader ecumenical marketplace.
It's a big job — one that includes planning and coordinating all new book acquisitions for Church Publishing, its imprints and for all published music and music resources. That's the outfit that publishes the hymnals, the Book of Common Prayer, and just about any other religious book you can think of. Yet as big and complex as the position is, it's hard to imagine anyone better equipped for the task. Bryan is an accomplished musician, Christian educator, editor and publisher. Many of her talents and vocations were fueled and reinforced at Bexley Hall, where she found her aspirations for lay ministry affirmed and her desire for a deeper theological understanding fulfilled.
"It was a wonderful experience in all sorts of ways, the shared campus with Trinity Lutheran Seminary and the opportunity to study side by side with those students," Bryan said. "And the Episcopal faculty there was just top of the line. It was exciting at the time I was there; there was such camaraderie and fun. The statue of Luther disappeared a time or two and showed up wearing cassock and surplice."
Prior to her new job at Church Publishing in New York City, Bryan was director of Christian education at Church of the Holy Family, an Episcopal church in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. She has also served churches in Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia and Ohio. In addition to a Master of Arts degree from Bexley Hall, Bryan earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Music Education from the University of Tennessee.
When she entered Bexley, she was working as managing editor at OSL Publications, which is the publishing mission of the Order of Saint Luke.
"I was working as an editor for a small religious publishing house at the time, so I knew that seminary would give me a better grounding for that work," Bryan said. "And of course, it absolutely did. It changed the conversations with authors when I could speak the language. So it has been very helpful."
Bexley was the third seminary she attended.
"I started seminary in the 90s and was living in Alabama at the time," she said. "I went to a program out of the Upper Room, the Academy of Spiritual Formation. It was a two-year spirituality program; it was a holistic model. As part of that, I fell in love with the whole academic study of liturgy."
"Then I took classes at a Catholic seminary, St. Mary Seminary and Graduate School of Theology in Cleveland, Ohio," she said. "When Bexley opened in Columbus, I decided that was the path for me. My attraction to seminary was the lure to understand more about the liturgy, particularly about the centrality of the Eucharist."
While the ordination track held some allure for her, Bryan said "ultimately, I realized I can do almost everything I feel called to do without ordination. It is one of those paths I have very few regrets about."
Bryan said that at Bexley, it was clear that the ordained and the lay ministry track and the ordination track were considered equal.
"I never ran across any condescension or any notion that my ministry was somehow going to be less than that of an ordained person," she said. "It was always an affirmation of collegiality, of laypeople and clergy. It was an equal and valid sort of path."
It's a path that Bexley Hall keep keeps open to all who seek to serve.