Pamela Dolan - Northern California Feels Like Home, Again

Pamela Dolan - Northern California Feels Like Home, Again

By Sophie Smal, Communications Coordinator

Having spent the first seven years of her childhood in Vacaville, the Rev. Dr. Pamela Dolan is glad to be back in California, serving as the new rector of St. Martin’s, Davis.

In addition to making the trip from a suburb near St. Louis named Town and Country, Rev. Pamela has had the opportunity of calling several places home, in Micronesia, Hawaii, Connecticut, Washington, New York and Scotland.

As a child, Dolan spent much time back and forth between Hawaii and California, attending a Roman Catholic church during this time. After her first communion, Dolan said she had “a deep, intuitive feeling that (the priesthood) was something (she) wanted to do.”

However, Dolan didn’t start thinking about what this feeling meant for her until college, especially because the Roman catholic church does not ordain women.

Dolan attended college at UC Berkeley, continuing the third generation of students in her family to do so, graduating Phi Beta Kappa with high honors and an English degree. During her time at Berkeley, Dolan spent a year abroad at the University of St. Andrew’s in Scotland, where she first thought about studying theology.

Following her call, Dolan eventually moved across the country to attend Harvard Divinity School, where she obtained a master’s degree in theology. Around this time, Dolan said she began to realize that she “wouldn’t be able to change the Roman Catholic church from the inside, although that was what (she) was trying to do at the time.”

It was also at this time that Dolan met and married her husband John.

In the following years, Dolan spent several years studying for her doctorate in medieval literature at New York University, although she didn’t complete the degree.

In the midst of her studies at NYU, Dolan became pregnant with the first of two daughters. It was upon her pregnancy that Dolan really felt called to explore other denominations, especially because she didn’t want her daughter to be raised in the Roman Catholic church.

Dolan said, “I simply couldn’t see myself raising a girl who would have to go through the same things I was,” that is wanting to be more involved in the church but not being allowed to follow her call.

“At the same time, I really struggled with wanting to remain Roman Catholic because I felt drawn to the sacramental life of it. I had to fight through the feeling of thinking ‘will it really be church if it’s not Roman Catholic?’” Dolan said.

Then, during a move from Connecticut back to California, Dolan met a friendly woman on a plane flight who told Dolan about her Episcopal church in Menlo Park, which was very family-friendly and welcoming.

Since Menlo Park was Dolan’s destination, it felt as though this Episcopal church was meant to be. So, Trinity Episcopal in Menlo Park became Dolan’s new home church, where she eventually joined the Episcopal Church and entered on staff, working on the church’s Christian formation.

“What I liked about the Roman Catholic church was Communion. At the time, everything about my spiritual life focused on the Eucharist, and I was able to find this commonality in the Episcopal church, which I love,” Dolan said.

In 2005, Dolan and her family made the move to St. Louis for her husband’s job, where they’ve lived until recently. It was there that Dolan was ordained into the priesthood and took a variety of pastoral education, church history, and preaching courses.

Around this time, Dolan also attended school yet again at Sewanee: The University of the South, earning her Doctorate of Ministry. At Sewanee, Dolan wrote a thesis on gardening as a spiritual practice, which stemmed into a ministry known as Cultivate: The Episcopal Food Movement.

Soon after, Dolan became the rector of Church of the Good Shepherd in the aforementioned suburb of Town and Country, where she held the position for over five years.

Now, Dolan shares that she’s very excited to be starting her new ministry at St. Martin’s.

“Much of my time now is spent getting to know people, which takes time. I’m really trying to ramp up communication and remember to spend time together without an agenda.

“I’m still trying to get to know where I live and know the challenges and joys. Overall, it’s a wonderful ‘getting-to-know-you’ phase, and everyone has been so welcoming and kind. The community and friendship is just so strong here.

“St. Martin’s is also a congregation that is committed to environmental justice, which is my passion. At the same time, my goal is to figure out what the passions are here and try to bring them into the world, instead of just working on what interests me,” Dolan said.

Dolan’s first day at St. Martin’s was Sept. 15. She will be officially installed by Bishop Barry L. Beisner on Jan. 4, 2018.

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