All of us know that after Father De Leon’s move to a new parish in Brooklyn, St. Thomas has been challenged to find a new rector to lead us. Many, however, may not know that the process began back in June and continues to move forward. At that time our two wardens, Diane Stobodzan and Diane Dunkhase, straightaway met with Canon Woodley of the Diocese of Long Island to learn the steps toward our welcoming a new priest. We are fortunate that Canon Woodley is so easy to work with, and our Dianes immediately put together a Search Team to reflect a cross section of our church. The members of the Search Committee are Irma Cardiello, Mike Duffel, Nancy Esposito, Thomas Esposito, Gary Norris, Pat Reynolds, and Vince Reynolds. We are fortunate that Pat Reynolds and Nancy Esposito have agreed to head the team.
Canon Woodley presided over our worship service at St. Thomas on June 24th, 2018, and she chatted with several parishioners during the coffee hour. Rather than offering just “Dos and Don’ts” in our quest for a rector, she generated wisdom and suggested that the search for a priest is only part of a question of our parish identity. In other words, we need to think about not merely what we hope to find in a priest, but what we hope to be as a church community. It’s no wonder, faced with this enormous task, that the Search Team’s first thought was to bring Canon Woodley to a committee meeting to offer us her guidance and answer the questions we have. So we are doing just that and just working out scheduling for that meeting.
At the initial committee meeting, held on a warm night in July besides the routine organizational steps and examination of the protocols from the diocese, the team discussed our hopes for our church and for our new rector. None of us needs to think long or hard to realize what a special parish and church home St. Thomas is, but an ideal priest is difficult to define, let alone find! Among many other characteristics, the members offered these traits for our future rector: being spiritual and approachable, being enthusiastic and accepting, welcoming change, being Christ-like.
You must have thoughts of your own regarding St. Thomas and regarding our future rector. The Search Committee has already created a survey to learn your views, and it will be in your hands once a procedure is in place. However, there is no need to wait for a survey. Please, speak up to any of the Search Team members with your opinions. Perversely, any survey confines you to its questions, and you may have thoughts which are too complicated to express via multiple choice. Now that summer is over and we find ourselves back in more frequent contact with each other, take advantage of moments together to exchange ideas about our needs in a priest and our strengths (and shortcomings) as a parish. As you garden on the church grounds, as you move those crafty hands, between customers at the food pantry, in quiet moments at the book store, before choir practice, do find out what your fellow parishioners are thinking.
Also, the Search Committee is organizing a profile of St. Thomas to reflect what we are. In print and online to give a potential rector a snapshot of our community to see if we are a fit for him/her. Marge Fey and Jim Sentman have been “voluntold” to create the profile and they are currently at work on it. Without a doubt, this is an exciting moment in the life of our parish.
St. Thomas in general and the Search Committee in particular have had one immeasurable blessing, and that is in the person of our interim rector, The Reverend Purchal. Without Father John Jeffrey, we would be in dire straits, without leadership and comfort at a turbulent time. While Father John Jeffrey could define his role merely as caretaker with a narrow sense of duty, it is evident to one and all who meet him that he sees himself as no “temp,” but rather as our spiritual leader. He actively engages us in thought of our mission and he enjoys getting to know each of us personally. There is so much pressure taken off the Search Team when we know that, while it is temporary, for the time being we are in the hands of a devoted, experienced, and committed rector.