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Kate Merriman

Combining Careers, Part Two: Rewards — Financial and Other

Illustration of two hands typing on a typewriter. The paper in the typewriter says “New Chapter.”
Illustration of two hands typing on a typewriter. The paper in the typewriter says “New Chapter.”
Copyright: bloomua

In the first part of this series, I described the circumstances that led me to vocational discernment. The parish in which I was serving could not afford a full-time priest. Was there another career that I could combine with Anglican ministry? Vocational discernment revealed the intriguing possibilities offered by editing. With a mixture of trepidation and excitement, I registered in the publishing program at Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU).

The following four years were, in a word, bumpy.

Over the first year and a half, while still working full-time in the parish, I took three courses at TMU: copyediting, an overview of trade publishing and substantive editing. My sense that I would enjoy editing proved accurate; I loved it. When the managing editor of a scholarly press asked one of the instructors if she knew an editor with a philosophy background (I had completed an MA and some doctoral work in philosophy prior to studying theology), she recommended me. The manuscript was an introduction to formal and informal logic, material I had taught to undergraduates for three years during my time as a teaching assistant. It was a match made in heaven. I had found my niche — scholarly and academic publishing.

With my editing career launched, I reduced my work in the parish to half-time and then, after our parish developed a shared ministry with a neighbouring Anglican parish, resigned. The diocese provides financial support to clergy who, for good reason, leave one church-related position without moving immediately to another, with the stipulation that if a suitable interim position arises, it must be accepted. This led to a part-time position two months later.

So far, so good.

But the part-time position ended after a year, leaving editing as my only source of income. I watched my savings steadily dwindle, relied on the kindness of family and friends, applied for five positions with the church (none of which I got) and registered early for CPP and the church pension. Finally, I secured a part-time, semi-permanent ministry position. My work as a freelance editor grew through recommendations and repeat business until I had an adequate, if modest, income.

Has freelance editing been financially rewarding? For me, absolutely!

However, it depends on one’s attitudes and circumstances. I’m single and have no dependents. Money has rarely been a goal in itself: all my life, I’ve first figured out what I want to do and then how to make a living doing it. I enjoy the challenge of living within a budget. The most I’ve earned from part-time editing in one year? $20,000. Someone with dependents, higher living costs and/or more expensive tastes might not describe my career as financially rewarding.

But what of the other rewards? These are, to borrow a phrase from Mastercard, priceless.

First, I’m receiving a free, graduate-level education in the humanities.

Second, I can put my specialized knowledge to productive use: for example, having the theological vocabulary to help an author describe the religious beliefs of ordinary Roman Catholics in 14th-century France, replacing “cracker” with “wafer” to describe communion bread  in a historical study of a radical Protestant denomination (thus averting a potential set-back in ecumenical relations) and mediating between the press and the authors in a work on biblical studies to produce a scholarly apparatus that works for both specialists and general readers.

Third, I’ve discovered commonalities between working with authors and pastoral work, and between editing and preaching, both of which demand close attention to the text.

The most exhilarating experience, however, has been the merging of my two vocations in co-editing two festschrifts (collections of essays) to recognize colleagues in ministry. The first, for Wilfrid Laurier University Press, was in honour of Joanne McWilliam, a distinguished Augustine scholar and the first woman to graduate from St. Michael’s College with a PhD in philosophy. The second, for McGill-Queen’s University Press, was in honour of Senator Lois Wilson, the first woman to serve as moderator of the United Church of Canada and president of the World Council of Churches for North America and a tireless advocate for human rights.

It’s been a wild and wonderful adventure. I hope your career combinations have been equally exhilarating and look forward to hearing about them.

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Previous post from Kate Merriman: Combining Careers, Part 1: Vocational Discernment

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