I am excited to finally officially be in Greenville and at St. James. As much as I loved my three years at Sewanee, it is good to be home, back in the Upstate of South Carolina. My first couple of weeks and my first couple of Sundays have been wonderful. I cannot thank you all enough for the warm welcome over the past couple of months. I have appreciated all the emails and people taking time to introduce themselves to me. I look forward to continuing to meet people and I am sure there will be many ways that we will be able to do that outside of Sunday morning.
When I visited on June 6, the first thing Father Stephen said to me was, “Welcome home!” I truly felt like I have come home, which is an amazing feeling considering June 6 was the first time I met Father Stephen in person, the first time I met you all in person, and the first time I walked into the building. Seminary is an interesting time, even though I still had my sponsoring parish, I really felt like I did not have a church home. It is unsettling, as it is supposed to be so I could begin to move on from my sponsoring parish. But as someone who has only had a handful of church homes in her life, it was a challenge. It is fun and a great experience to worship at different Episcopal churches, but it is hard not to have that anchor to keep me grounded.
Many of you have asked questions to get to know me better and I welcome them as a chance to share my story with you all. I was born and raised in Jacksonville, Florida. I grew up at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church. My mom still is a member there, so when I go and visit, that is where I attend church. My earliest memory of church is sitting in the balcony with my parents, my brother, godparents, and godbrothers and sisters. I also have very distinct memories of singing in the Children’s Choir, especially for Feast Days. I was an acolyte from 7th to 12th grades. The cross I wear most often was given to me my Senior Year in high school on Baccalaureate Sunday for my service as an acolyte. I was also very involved in EYC all throughout junior high and high school. My youth years were incredibly formative and important in my call to the priesthood, so much so that my clergy presenter at my ordination to the Transitional Diaconate was the priest who oversaw the Youth Group, Rev. Eric Kahl.
I have been in South Carolina (minus the three years at Sewanee) since the Fall of 1992, when I went to college at Converse. I majored in Psychology and Religion and loved my four years of college. I have a wonderful group of friends and we have been with each other through thick and thin, through the joys and challenges of life. During college, I was involved in Canterbury Club, which was a joint effort between Wofford, Converse, and USC Upstate. I attended The Episcopal Church of the Advent and helped with their Jr. EYC group. While at Converse I met Matt, who was attended Wofford at the time. We married right after I graduated from Converse. We first lived in Anderson for a couple of years while Matt was completing his PhD in Analytical Chemistry. We then moving back to Spartanburg. I taught preschool, did Youth Ministry for a while at two different United Methodist Churches, and eventually settled down into higher education, working at Converse in Institutional Advancement and then Admissions, and then Admissions at Wofford.
Aside from spending some time in the United Methodist Church, we also took some time to explore other denominations, eventually landing back in The Episcopal Church at St. Christopher’s in Spartanburg. Although I had long felt the call to ordained ministry, I also wrested with my call. While it took a while for me to get fully engaged at St. Christopher’s and much of it happened in phases, I eventually ended up ringing in the Bell Choir, Lectoring, Chalicing, Verging, Chairing the Worship Committee, being elected Senior Warden, and Chairing a Search Committee. Each of those ministries would fill the hole for a while and I would be satisfied for a while, but God and my call kept pulling at me. At the same time, I also began to realize that while although I loved my job at Wofford, I loved the people I worked with, and I loved working on a college campus, I wasn’t really using all my God given gifts and talents. The closest I would come to it is calming a parent, a student, or a guidance counselor, letting them know things were going to be OK, we would work with them, if they were making to effort to get things for the application file to us in a timely manner.
God must of have gotten tired of my struggling and decided it was time to send me an engraved invitation in the form of two priests. Rev. Jim Trimble, who St. Christopher’s called as Vicar in May of 2015. I was on the team that made the visit to Kentucky to see him, hear him preach, and meet his family. I realized from that moment on, if we called Father Jim, I would be challenged merely by his presence. The second one is Rev. Eric Kahl. I had not seen him in 15 years when we saw each other in June of 2015 in Jacksonville when I was visiting shortly after we called Father Jim. One of the last conversations we had, Father Eric looked at me and asked me why I wasn’t a priest yet and then told me that he always knew I had been called and that as soon as Father Jim was officially on board at St. Christopher’s, I needed to have a conversation with him.
I began discernment at St. Christopher’s Episcopal Church in the Fall of 2015. I applied to enter the formal discernment process through The Diocese of Upper South Carolina in September of 2016. After being married 21 years, Matt unexpectedly died, and I had to put my discernment process on hold for a little while. In January of 2018, I was given permission by Bishop Waldo to attend seminary. Shortly afterward, I applied to and then visited The School of Theology at The University of the South (Sewanee) and was accepted into the Class of 2021.
My time at Sewanee was amazing. I not only soaked up the academics and the spiritual life, but the time of fellowship with my classmates, fellow seminarians, and professors. I also took advantage of being in such a beautiful and sacred space and did a good bit of hiking. While I checked off many Sewanee bucket list items, my favorite by far was hiking the 21-mile Perimeter Trail with classmates right before graduation. Sewanee was a wonderfully supportive environment to complete my Master of Divinity degree, begin preparing for ordination and ordained ministry, and continue to heal and work through the grief process. I graduated from The School of Theology on May 16 and was ordained as a Transitional Deacon on June 9 at Trinity Cathedral in Columbia.
inI moved from Sewanee to Greenville at the beginning of July and am in the slow process of getting settled in. While my home office is still a mess as all the unpacked boxes are in there, my kitchen, dining area, living room, and bedrooms are pretty much settled. So, I can cook a meal, I have a place to sit and eat, I have TV and internet, I have a place to sleep, and I know where most of my clothes are. I am grateful to Father Stephen for giving me the time and space to settle and make sure I could find everything I needed for my first day in the office and more importantly my first Sunday (and yes there's a story there). My dogs, Beau and JJ have not yet joined me, but I am hoping they will very soon.
I am thrilled to be a part of the St. James family and I look forward to sharing more of my story as well as hearing your stories and the story of St. James. I look forward to serving in ministry with you all.