TryTank Experimental Lab launches ‘Dial-A-Priest’

Virginia Theological Seminary
Posted Apr 6, 2020

Virginia Theological Seminary (VTS) and General Theological (GTS) announced today that the TryTank Experimental Lab is today making Dial-A-Priest available to hospitals around the country.

Dial-A-Priest is a free service that connects callers to an Episcopal clergyperson who can offer the “Ministration at the Time of Death” from the Book of Common Prayer by telephone to hospital patients. The hotline can be reached 24 hours a day at (213) 423-3600. The number can easily be found at On mobile devices the site functions as one-click dialing.

“The anticipated number of people who will die from this pandemic will be too large for our hospitals medically and has already exceeded what the Church can respond to pastorally,” said the Rev. Lorenzo Lebrija, director of the TryTank. “Too many people are dying at the same time, and without the physical presence of a local pastor. This is a way to use the gifts of clergy from all over the United States to help where there is the most need.”

While the clergy on the hotline are all Episcopal, they will offer the prayers to any person who wishes to receive them.

After conceiving the idea, TryTank put out a call to mainly retired Episcopal priests through Facebook and other channels. Within hours more than 80 volunteers had been screened and were undergoing orientation on how to use the system.

“What strikes me about this tragedy is how alone everyone is. We are all alone in our various isolations,” the Rev. Alice Downs said. “But through this project I can reach into someone’s aloneness. From way over here on an island off the coast of Maine I can say to someone dying alone those ancient sacred words that bind us as one people.”

The TryTank Experimental Laboratory for Church Growth and Innovation is a joint project between Virginia Theological Seminary and the General Theological Seminary. TryTank offers inventive approaches to the challenges facing the Episcopal Church. Working in partnership across the Episcopal Church, TryTank works to understand the forces threatening the church in order to identify creative ways to equip future leaders to reinvigorate the church.

For more information please contact the Rev. Lorenzo Lebrija at (213) 238-0113 or

Founded in 1823 as a beacon of hope in a country new and finding its way, Virginia Theological Seminary is the flagship Seminary of the Episcopal Church. One of our first benefactors was Francis Scott Key, whose poem provides the text for our national anthem. In the 191 years since being established, VTS has led the way in forming leaders of the Episcopal Church, including: the Most Rev. John E. Hines (VTS 1933, D.D. 1946), former presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church; the Rt. Rev. John T. Walker (VTS 1954, D.D. 1978), the first African-American bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington; and theologian, author and lay preacher Ms. Verna J. Dozier (VTS D.D. 1978). Serving the worldwide Anglican Communion, Virginia Theological Seminary educates approximately 25% of those being ordained who received residential theological education. Visit us online at