I have been looking at congregations that have recently completed their call process and had a new rector. One of the parishes that struck me as a good example is St. Francis Episcopal Church in Macon, Georgia.
There was nothing out of the ordinary in their call process except its extraordinarily good result. I also like their Rector Search Progress Report page for two reasons. First, they had in the right hand column a list of all the steps in the call process and as they were completed the steps were marked in BOLD type. Like the thermometer on the wall it was easy to tell where they were. The other thing I liked was a personal narrative that each search committee member did, in turn, to describe their progress. These were wonderful, heartfelt stories of a journey that was obviously being well tended to throughout. It was like reading their search process “diary” and you feel part of the process.
So what, you ask?
Their search process resulted in the call of a young priest named Father Chad. He had never been a rector. He had trained as an art historian and worked at Oglethorpe University Museum of Art before leaving to take a job as executive assistant to the Dean of the Cathedral of St. Philip in Atlanta. He went on to the Episcopal Theological Seminary of the Southwest in Austin, Texas to earn his Master’s of Divinity degree. He did time as an Associate Priest at St. David’s—a very large Episcopal Church in Austin.
Maybe it is the comfortable, laid-back style of Austin (a place I know well from living there four years), but as you read the report of the search committee you will see that they were so impressed with Father Chad that he was their ONLY FINALIST recommended to the vestry. Then again, maybe it was God telling them this is the person I have chosen to be your shepherd. Something happened and the Holy Spirit was obvious in the place. You can “feel it” as you read the words of the search process journey.
“Father Chad is very approachable, humorous, a lover of souls and is ready to lead St Francis as we take the next steps on our journey.” That is how they described him. It feels good and is good for St. Francis.
“Come as you are!”
When you hit on St. Francis welcome page those are the first words you see. Not stuffy, not churchy, not formal, just friendly and welcoming—a place that feels like you are home.