Rector Search Update
Since June 2016, Grace and St. Peter's Church has been in the discernment process for selecting a new rector. At the end of February, the Rector Search Committee and the Vestry made their choice from the fourteen applicants who expressed interest in coming to our church. As senior warden, Dr. Richard E. Bavaria updates the congregation most Sundays at the 10:00 Mass. Here's his latest update, from 19 March, 2017.
Good morning. I have the happy honor of speaking to you today with good news to share about our rector search, news you've been patiently and eagerly waiting to hear: the name of our new priest-in-charge.
I remind you of the process our church followed to get to this happy occasion. Our rector search committee formed immediately after the death of Fr. Thomas almost a year ago. We were faced with a great task, and since we haven't been through this process for nearly forty years, we were uncertain what lay ahead.
Our job was to select a priest-in-charge, a provisional one-to-two-year post that will lead to permanent rector if both he and we agree we've each made the right choice. It's become pretty much standard practice in the Episcopal Church.
I can honestly say that choosing our new rector was the most difficult and yet the most rewarding church-related mission I've ever faced. As I have reported to you on Sundays for the past several months, our well-known church attracted the interest of fourteen priests eager to join our Anglo-Catholic worship in our historic church in our celebrated neighborhood. Each was notable in his own way. Each wanted to lead us in our mission, which we read weekly on the cover page of our bulletin: to glorify God and to worship Him on a daily basis by being an outward and visible sign of Christ's presence for all people through Anglo-Catholic worship, preaching, teaching, and music.
We plowed through those resumes. It was painful to eliminate, one by notable one, our choices. But we put our faith in the Holy Spirit, whose guidance we felt -- and sometimes, in our desire to hurry, resisted. But we were always called back on track.
Never did we forget that each of these resumes was more than a packet of well-written, thoughtful, and personal information. Each was a person, a priest who knew of Grace and St. Peter's, and who honored us by wanting to join us in our mission.
I think I can speak for the rector search committee when I say that the "final four" whom we interviewed in person were among the most memorable men we've ever had the privilege to meet. Each one smart, eager to be here, a little nervous perhaps, and with impressive ideas about tackling the issues that all urban churches face -- aging, dwindling congregations, infrastructure demands, and yet a turbulent world where people, especially young people, are seeking a spiritual home. It was an honor to speak and listen to these four priests. They made quite an impression on me and the committee. I respectfully ask that during today's Mass we pray for them, for their personal and professional futures, and for God's grace on them. We give thanks for them and for their priesthoods.
Now, the name you're waiting for. Our choice is the Reverend Christopher Pyles. He's been a priest for twelve years, the rector for the past seven at St. John's Bellefonte in the Diocese of Central Pennsylvania, near Penn State University. A native of the Washington, D.C. suburbs, he graduated from Fordham University, studied at General Theological Seminary in New York City, was ordained at St. John the Divine in New York City, served as assistant to the rector at Washington Memorial Chapel in Valley Forge, became associate rector at St. Luke's Germantown in Philadelphia, and has been rector at St. John's Bellefonte for the past seven years.
He's smart, devout, energetic, and personable. He has the administrative and financial skills we knew we needed. He has chosen to live right here in our rectory, so he can be close to the action. Close to the church, close to the school, close to the neighborhood, close to neighbors. He's ready to reach out to them, to invite them in, to make Grace and St. Peter's a part of their lives. We've always been an integral part of the Mount Vernon historic district, and we're about to strengthen those ties, especially with a growing, youthful population.
His smart choice of living in the rectory presented us with another challenge: the inevitable job (we knew it was coming sooner or later) of making the rectory once again a suitable home for our rector. It hasn't been used for that purpose for decades. It needs much work, some of it expensive. If you'd like to help us defray some of these costs and to make Fr. Pyles' home comfortable and safe, if not particularly luxurious, we invite your contributions. Write "rectory renovation" on your check.
He's moving here the end of May and will begin as our priest-in-charge on June 1st, his first Sunday Mass June 4.
June 4 is also our annual picnic, where we celebrate our choir and the fine musical season they've given us. This year's picnic will be extra special -- a celebration of our choir and the welcome of our new priest. Fr. Pyles has already shown his respect for our traditions and his own devoutness -- he's asked our musical director, David Lawrie, to arrange for music for the month of June, for Pentecost, Trinity Sunday, and Corpus Christi. He's donated personally to fund this music.
Fr. Pyles -- wait'll you meet him -- has informed his senior and junior wardens and his vestry of his being called to Grace and St. Peter's. They are, of course, sad to see him leave (It's their turn to have a rector search!) but they understand the need for professional and personal growth. He is informing his congregation in their newsletter, which is published tomorrow. He asks that we not share our good news on social media for a couple of days. News travels fast.
There are still details to tend to -- there always are -- but we're ready to face, with eagerness, excitement, and a little understandable apprehension, our new future. We are determined to hold onto our proud past, our history, our traditions. But we are also ready to embrace what God has in store for us, for our community, and ultimately for Him.
On Wednesday, you'll be able to read these words on our website and Facebook page, as well as a short biography and photo of Fr. Pyles. In the meantime, praise God for this good news and feel free to shout it out to friends and neighbors. On Wednesday.
I cannot end today without heartfelt gratitude and admiration for the members of your rector search committee. They are a remarkable, industrious, faithful, and devoted group. They speak their minds, they're civil and respectful to each other, and they understand the power of listening and learning and growing. It's been my great pleasure and honor to work so closely with them for so many months. Oh, the stories we now share!
They are Hollis Albert, Adam Barner, Dante Beretta, Martin Burch, Peter Geier, Ellen Gifford, Carver Green, Arthur Lee, Ed Lee, Raymond Lui, and Nona Porter. You know them all. Just think of the talents, knowledge, and industry that group offers! Our church was well-served by these stalwarts!
And, of course, special and eternal thanks to our own Fr. Speer, who's been acting as our priest-in-charge with energy, integrity, and devoutness during this entire process. Never flagging, never complaining, always upbeat and encouraging.
In the next few weeks, I'm sure I'll be addressing you again with updates about Fr. Pyles' arrival and other details that need to be tended to. But for now, I think we're all pleased with today's news, and we have plenty to think about and to be grateful for. Thanks be to God.